MACCRAY board approves new building plan on 4-2 vote

MACCRAY School Board members approved the schematic plan for a new central campus, which will include a new elementary school, an auditorium, and remodeling in the high school to accommodate middle school programming. Objections to the plan came from board members concerned about the layout for the special education area in the elementary school.

An architect's image of the MACCRAY elementary school and central campus in Clara City as planned in the schematic design. Submitted

CLARA CITY — MACCRAY School Board members on a 4-2 vote Monday evening approved schematic plans for the construction of a new central campus in Clara City.

Board members Deb Brandt and Tate Mueller voted “no” to moving forward using the plan as it is. Brandt was unsuccessful in asking board members to instruct the project design team to revise plans for the special education section of the new elementary school on the central campus.

She and other board members have heard concerns from the parents of special education children in the elementary grades. The plans place classrooms for special education in a central area of the elementary. The elementary grade classes will be on the exterior walls. The special education classrooms do not have windows to the outside, and their interior placement means there is a lot of corridor area.

Brandt said parents are concerned about the lack of windows, the possibility that some special needs children will run in the corridor space, and that a lack of windows as exits puts the students at risk if there is a shooter in the school.

She said the arrangement is also contrary to the goal of integrating special education into the elementary programs as much as possible. She also said that elementary school special education teachers did not have an opportunity to participate in the planning for this initial design.


But the issue of most concern, she said, is the lack of outside windows. “They deserve windows to the outside at the least,” she told board members.

Project manager Chris Ziemer of ICS said the configuration is commonly used in schools throughout the state. The last 15 schools he has helped design have used it, he said.

The area will have natural light from domes, and ready access to the other rooms, he added.

Redesigning the schematic plan at this point would take about a month, he said. It would also mean windows would have to be removed from plans for some other portion of the new buildings.

Budget and efficiency needs dictated that there would be classrooms without exterior windows, the project manager told board members.

“Some have to sacrifice because I can’t get everyone windows,” Ziemer said of the economic restraints.

Board member Carmel Thein, a member of the design team, said the members also considered the need to limit distractions for children in the special education program. The team appreciates the importance of natural light, and is confident the design will provide it.

“Trying to find that balance here,” she said of the desire for natural light and eliminating distractions. She added that special education students would not be spending all of the school day in the central classrooms.


Superintendent Sherri Broderius said the design process included input from many staff members, and that at least one representative of every department had a role in it.

Board member Julie Alsum, a member of the design team, said that overall the schematic design meets the goals set for the district. She said she appreciates the way the middle school is both isolated from the high school, but yet provides those students access to high school programming. She said the plan also includes a variety of common areas where teachers can provide instruction outside of the traditional classroom setting.

Ziemer said the design keeps close to the budget, with an estimated cost for construction at this point of $30,656,200. That is 1.5% or $456,200 above the budget. The overall project cost is estimated at $40,214,727.

The upward variance for construction is due largely to two factors. There is a need to upgrade the original kitchen plans by $250,000 to meet the needs. Also, the planners learned the school needs to include a storm shelter. It adds $375,000 in costs to the total.

There is one major “want” on the project list. The designers want to lengthen the new gym planned for the facility from 74 to 84 feet at an estimated cost of $325,000.

The 4-2 vote to approve moves the project to the next phase of design development. The goal is to put the project up for bidding late this year in hopes of seeing a groundbreaking next spring. Construction is projected into 2022.

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