Alden-Conger allocates some of surplus funding

Published 7:40 pm Friday, March 15, 2019

ALDEN — In line with community priorities established for reallocated referendum funds, the Alden-Conger school board has begun chipping away at its to-do list.

On Monday night, the board approved the start of two of the top three projects identified by a district-administered survey taken earlier this year: putting in new elementary playground equipment and constructing a van garage.

Funds for the projects come from an almost $1 million surplus leftover from a 2015 referendum whose work costs came in lower than budgeted. In the survey, the community identified new playground equipment, a three-stall garage with storage and renovations to existing sports fields as their top priorities.

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The new playground equipment would be approximately 54 feet by 32 feet and include slides, things to climb, a balance beam and a jungle gym, Alden-Conger Superintendent Brian Shanks said.

“It’s just a whole variety … and it’s meant to be for any kids 5 to 12,” Shanks said. “… It’s just going to be nice.”

The estimated cost of the new equipment is $37,000, with an estimated additional $13,425 for installation and $32,000 for preparation of the new area. This $32,000 includes installation of an ADA-approved wood fiber material. It also includes removal of the old surface material — pea rock — and installing a new playground border. School board member Alex Marschalk asked if the district had considered Astroturf with padding for the playground surface.

According to Shanks, rubber mat surfacing is very expensive. While he estimated the wood fiber material, similar to wood chips, would cost around $30 a yard, an estimate he received for rubber surfacing came in at $22 a square foot.

Though the project estimate came it at $84,425, the school board approved up to $100,00 for updates to the elementary playground. Unknown costs included shipping and tax.

“This is probably the project that’s going to affect the most people,” school board chairman Ryan Merkouris said.

The board also approved up to $100,000 to be spent on a 50-by-50-foot van garage. The initial design included three main garage doors on the front and a smaller garage door on each side. The district is exploring what it would look like to section the garage, possibly using part of its space for the supermileage team and part for storage. The building would be insulated with completed ceilings and walls.

The original garage will stay, Shanks said, and become storage for custodians.

The estimated cost for the new structure, including installation, garage doors and ceiling, would cost approximately $85,000, Shanks reported. The concrete around the building would be another estimated $6,500.

The estimate also did not include electrical work, light fixtures, garage door openers or a heating source. Shanks said the school board can approve these as a separate project when it comes time to discuss finishing the building’s inside.

School board members Bob Forman and Doug Steele encouraged the superintendent to explore larger-sized garage door options, which Shanks agreed to do.

There is also still a decision to be made as to where the garage goes. Shanks and head custodian Gary Wichmann has identified two places. Shanks said Freeborn’s Pride Builders Inc. out of Freeborn, the company the superintendent has worked with for the project, did not identify a preference between the two locations.

Shanks said there are still several details to be worked out on the project.

“That’s the problem with buildings is you want it done right, so you hate to rush them,” Steele said.

In addition to community priorities, the school also brought forth some of its own, including addressing a water infiltration issue on the east side of the building, completing a bathroom facelift and replacing the middle school lockers.

While Shanks said the district is working with the same company for the same locker size as the ones the district was able to replace last year, he was told the steel tariffs put a significant hit on the project. The same locker size that cost the district just under $100 per locker in the summer is now up to $120.

“That’s a significant increase there,” Shanks said.

The lockers will be identical to those installed last summer, Shanks said.

The school board approved the locker replacements Monday with a hard cost estimate of $27,141 for the project.

In other action:

• The school board approved the purchase of a new K-5 elementary curriculum after a three-year search to replace its almost 15-year-old current curriculum. In total, the Fountas & Pinnell curriculum chosen will cost the district close to $80,000.

“Curriculum is expensive,” Shanks said. “It’s really expensive.”

The district had not budgeted for this price tag.

“This is one of the reasons why we have our savings account that we do,” Shanks said.

• The district approved ordering curriculum for kindergarten through third grade on this year’s budget and ordering fourth and fifth grade curriculum after July.

After the board approved the curriculum, fourth-grade teacher and presenter Stephanie Hallman sang her gratitude to the board while fellow teacher Linnea Peterson did a small dance. Peterson said finding the right curriculum for the district was a “huge, huge task for us to make the right decision,” and that they had found one they love.

“Thank you,” Hallman sang. “We are so happy.”

• Three days were added to the school calendar to make up for days lost to weather. These days include March 22 (originally scheduled as a half-day and now as a full day), March 25 (originally scheduled for staff development) and April 22 (originally scheduled as a vacation day for everyone).

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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