School site options down to two

MEEKER — Meeker School District board members were unable to specify a site for the new elementary school Tuesday night because of concerns about utilities, particularly sewer lines. However, the location of the future building was narrowed down from five to two.
To narrow down location and other issues, the board voted to hold a design meeting Tuesday, June 22, from 2-9 p.m. in the district office. The board is encouraging public participation.
In addition, a formal school board meeting to choose the final site is scheduled for Thursday June 26, at 7 p.m. in the regular board meeting room.
The board has narrowed it down to “site two,” 24 acres located behind the bus barn at the high school, and “site three,” 24 acres located behind the high school football field on the ridgeline.
Re-1 School Board President Mary Strang said the board and administration have considered concerns about student safety and developing a “campus” with all three Meeker schools.
Strang said the board consulted with local law enforcement about emergency access to the new school. That consultation, along with other considerations, led to the realization that the project would have to include a new access road coming from the west, and not just an extension of the current access road.
The latter issue was raised in a letter from elementary school staff who want to be able to use the resources of the middle and high schools.
Teachers envision having elementary students working with middle school student mentors, among other activities. The schools already share some resources, including teaching staff, but the distance between the schools is a barrier to efficient use of resources.
Board member Kai Turner said he thought “site three” was a better location, but added that the building design could be tweaked to make it more energy efficient through a lower profile, that is, slightly lower on the hill or deeper into the hill.
Turner also said the project should make use of existing slope. This was particularly evident later when the discussion turned to the sewer line and whether the project would require a pumping station for the sewer line.
Don Weidinger, vice president of business development for Neenan Archistructure, the project’s construction and architecture consultant, said “site two” will require a pumping station with some added costs.
The two major concerns for board member Mindy Burke were to save the Rich Lyttle discus and shot put field, which would be affected in some of the proposed designs, and to build a regular gymnasium.
“I cannot support “site three” when it’s funneling traffic by the high school,” said board member Jerry Oldland. Moving the access road to the west via Sulphur Creek Road would have advantages for both sites, he said.
“I’d have to echo what Jerry said” about traffic, added board member Ben Rogers. “I like the combination of the two sites. The most important thing when we leave this room tonight…is to be unified” to take the next step and “get a good product,” he said.
The board did vote to limit the location of the elementary building to an area covering two of the alternative sites previously chosen. Site 2 and Site 3 have advantages and disadvantages, Strang said.
High school science and math teacher Bob Dorsett, M.D., complained that Site 3 would interfere with the ridge, which he says is ecologically sensitive and is an outdoor classroom for his science classes.
Dorsett said Site 3 was unacceptable because it cut off some of the ridgeline, which is the outdoor classroom for ecological studies. Site 2, lower down the hill from Site 3, “is perfectly adequate,” Dorsett said.
Paul “Buckshot” Sheridan told the board, “The word on the street was Site 3 was a foregone conclusion.”
He added that “there’s a group of us who are nostalgic” about the current elementary school building. They had hoped the board would just go ahead with asbestos abatement and reconstruction of the building.
Sheridan said he thought the asbestos abatement could be accomplished for about $250,000 plus costs to remodel the building. But Sheridan said he realized the new school was going to happen.
“We’re thrilled you were willing to take into consideration our suggestions” for a campus site, elementary school teacher Deb Omer told the board. She said she is concerned with the “flow of the school.” She also praised Rogers for his statement about coming together for the sake of the district.
The design and planning meeting set for next Tuesday will allow the public to be involved in helping narrow down the location as well as building design.
In other actions, the board accepted the latest preliminary budget of almost $6 million. Superintendent Dan Evig said the district currently expects to spend $299,388 over the proposed budget of $5,990,046. This is primarily due to rising energy costs and some unexpected higher expenses related to recent hires.
“I’m nervous about” rising prices for gasoline, diesel, and natural gas, Evig told the board.
Last year, he said, Meeker High School spent about $52,000 on natural gas.
The higher personnel costs are because some new hires had higher levels of education and experience than originally expected and have to be paid at a higher “step,” Evig said.
The board also approved three middle school coaching positions. Jamie Rogers will coach volleyball, and her assistant will be Hallie Blunt. Travis Mobley also was approved.