Committee proposes high school project, new elementary

A new K-2 school in the north end of the city and a remodeling and addition project at the high school are the two options that a committee plans to recommend to the Princeton School Board on Jan. 28 as the board looks to run a facilities improvement referendum next May.

Once the board decides exactly what it wants to propose in a referendum, it is expected to explain at a public meeting in February why it is going with its proposal.

Wold Architects and Engineers and the ICS Consulting firm have been guiding a facilities upgrade initiative since late last year. The process has involved more than a half dozen citizen committees studying the educational and activity needs in the district’s buildings.

The options committee has used the information to suggest various options and has now narrowed them down. The new elementary would replace the grades K-2 South Elementary, where the entire second grade has its classes in a rented 14-unit portable building.

The original part of South Elementary was constructed in 1954, with a new addition for expanded kindergarten space and a new media center added several decades ago. The cafeteria and small gym have remained the same and the population of the K-2 students is nearly double the building’s original capacity.

The facilities committees have all agreed that getting rid of portable classrooms is top priority.

About the options

Earlier in the process, the options committee looked at the suggestion of renovating and adding on to South Elementary.

Sites looked at 

The options committee, which met Dec. 30, didn’t decide on the exact site on which to build a new K-2 school, but did state it should be on the north end of the city. It will be left to the School Board to decide if it wants the proposed new building to be constructed next to North Elementary or at the school’s vacant property about a half mile to the north.

High school project

The options committee also set as a priority the need to address the high school program and functional needs, and modernize the school’s industrial technical spaces, now located in a metal building.

Dierks, when asked if he could expound on what the options committee was suggesting for the high school, responded that it might be best for the options committee to give that part of its presentation to the School Board first. But Dierks did say that the committee is looking at a gymnasium addition, besides improving the high school’s IT area.

First, by getting it out of the present South Elementary location, there would no longer be the car and pedestrian congestion that exists now in the high school and South Elementary area, particularly when school lets out. The two buildings and their parking lots are adjacent to each other.

The advantage of having a new K-2 building next to North Elementary is that the district could solve the problem of the undersized parking lot now at North by replacing it with one large parking lot to serve two schools.

The site the district owns about a half mile to the north of North Elementary is also viable, but there would be a cost to run an adequate road to it and extend the needed city water and sewer mains to it, he said. Before the options committee brings its recommendations to the full School Board, the board’s facilities committee (Board Members Howard Vaillancourt, Deb Ulm and Chad Young) will meet with Vaughn, ICS consultant Pat Overom, building and grounds coordinator Keith Barlage, Community Education Director Gwen Anderson, and district Director of Business Services Michelle Czech.

They will review the proposal and see if more information is needed.

The committees involved in the fact-finding and the process of coming up with options have agreed that any request for money from the voters next May to improve facilities can’t exceed $30 million.