Nagle questions facilities-plan process

Joel Stottrup / Union-Eagle Princeton School Board member Chuck Nagle during the June 25 board meeting, speaking on the issue of school construction.
Joel Stottrup / Union-Eagle
Princeton School Board member Chuck Nagle during the June 25 board meeting, speaking on the issue of school construction.

Princeton School Board member Chuck Nagle has criticized the school district’s process of surveying taxpayers in the district about their school facilities,  as the school board heads toward a construction-levy referendum next spring.
Nagle, at the June 25 meeting, claimed the board and survey questions are “predisposed” to building a new school to replace the overcrowded K-2 South Elementary. They survey is not giving due consideration to remodelling and adding on to solve the school’s space problem, Nagle said.
The survey is being done by telephone and started last week.
Nagle’s assertions brought responses from school board members Craig Johnson, Jeremy Miller, and board chair Deb Ulm.
Nagle began by asserting that he didn’t notice questions in the survey bringing out a remodelling option. He also said he would have liked to have seen the board involved in the development of the questions.
Ulm countered that the survey does seek the public’s feelings about the idea of adding onto and renovating grades K-2 South Elementary.
Nagle responded that he still felt the questions are weighted toward suggesting the district should just build new.
Nagle also said the board should not be conducting the survey until after the district’s facilities consultant has completed its facilities analysis. The analysis might determine the questions to ask in the survey, Nagle said.
Miller responded that sometimes districts will run a second survey.
“The thing is, it’s our intent to build a new school,” Johnson said. “We’re not looking to put it in a barn somewhere, rent New Life Church or put it in an airplane hangar. We’re looking at building a new school. That was the intent of the directive we gave them (the consultants) and if there was some way of rebuilding or adding onto South (Elementary) that was safe and effective, all the experts can sure lead us down that path. But I’m pretty certain that during the past 12 to 13 months, 18 months, the board has been talking… about a new elementary school.”
Ulm appeared confident that all options will be examined.
“If we were to gut out South Elementary” and renovate and add on, what is that going to cost us compared to building a brand new school,” Ulm said. “Those are the things we need to weed out and they are going to be explored.”
Miller said he felt the district’s consultants have “an open-slate mentality” as it goes into analyzing options for dealing with the district’s space needs as a whole and will be “weeding it down. I think we’re predisposed to ya, a new building is the way to meet our needs. The information the board received last year did suggest building new to meet the needs, but our directive to them (the consultants) and their recommendation to us is to start on an open plain, and narrow it down, which I think is a smart approach.”
“We shouldn’t be dictating as a board how we think it should go or what it (the survey) should say at this point,” Johnson said. “We’ve already done our part. We’ve approved it… If we don’t really like little bits and pieces and nuts and bolts of it…it’s not our gig…We can’t micromanage them (the consultants).”
Nagle said after the meeting that he has not made up his mind whether the district should build new facilities or remodel and add on.
The board, in related business,approved forming a committee of a few school board members to build a “community-driven proposal” on school facilities.
Superintendent Julia Espe told the board that the committee will oversee the entire process, and along with the community finance committee will bring their information to the full school board.
It would assist in vetting the information, board member Howard Vaillancourt commented.
The goal will be to come up with a construction plan that “everyone can support, at least the majority,” Ulm said.