NLS prepares for the ‘what if’ after referendum
NEW LONDON -- As the last-minute push continues to inform voters about Tuesday's building referendum, the New London-Spicer School Board is preparing for what happens next -- whether the $21.6 million bond issue passes or fails.
NEW LONDON - As the last-minute push continues to inform voters about Tuesday’s building referendum, the New London-Spicer School Board is preparing for what happens next - whether the $21.6 million bond issue passes or fails.
At its planning meeting Monday, the board discussed steps to take if the measure is approved, such as a potential construction timeline that would start this spring and be completed by the 2017-2018 school year.
If the bond issue fails, the board may have to consider constructing temporary classrooms at the elementary school and would continue to lease off-campus facilities for theater performances and the gymnastics program.
“No matter the outcome, we’ve done our job,” said board member Cherrish Holland, referring to the scope of the proposal and numerous community information meetings that have been held recently.
“We’ll leave it to the public,” she said.
Last year NLS voters defeated a $14.6 million proposal.
After surveying residents and conducting a space analysis, the board retooled the proposal this year to remove some items, such as a walking track and fitness center, and to add others, such as a larger addition at the elementary school.
The proposal in front of voters Tuesday includes two new classrooms and a cafeteria/multi-purpose learning space at Prairie Woods Elementary in New London. The 7,775-square-foot addition would ease overcrowding at the school, where some programs are conducted in hallways, and it would also provide a place for students to exercise and play during winter days when it’s too cold to go outside.
“We’re out of space,” said Board Chairman Robert Moller, speaking about Prairie Woods.
Enrollment at Prairie Woods exceeds the expected figures, said Superintendent Paul Carlson, and board members reiterated that all available space at the Prairie Meadows school in Spicer is full with pre-kindergarten students and programs.
The additional operating costs for the Prairie Woods’ expansion is estimated at $6,214 a year, Carlson said.
A 650-seat performing arts auditorium and two-court gym is proposed at the high school/middle school in New London, for a total addition of 47,915 square feet.
The annual operating expense of that expanded space is estimated at $48,400.
There are also security improvements to the buildings and safety enhancements to the middle school parking lot in the plan.
If the bond issue is approved in Tuesday’s referendum, Carlson said the district should consider hiring a construction manager or owner’s representative to assist with the bidding and construction process. That step would need to be completed by December to keep the construction timeline on schedule, he said.
Depending on how the project is bid, construction could be staggered at the two sites or started at the same time.
If a staggered schedule is required, the board said the Prairie Woods segment would take priority and begin first.
If the project is approved, Carlson said he hoped local contractors would bid on it.
If the bids come in higher than projected, the board may have to pare down the project. If they come in lower than projected, the principal on the loan could be paid down to reduce the overall cost, Moller said.
If the proposal fails, Moller said the district will “end up doing something,” especially to accommodate the overcrowded elementary school. That could be portable classrooms or leasing space elsewhere, he said.
The gymnastics program currently leases space near Spicer at a former Bible camp that’s for sale. Once that property is sold, it could leave the gymnastics program without a home.
The school also leases space at the Little Theatre in New London for its drama program.
Moller said it’s too early to say if the board would put another proposal to voters if this one fails Tuesday.
Although some people who voted no last year are still “on the fence” about how they intend to vote on the project this year, Moller said everyone agrees that the board has done a better job of getting information out to the public and there seems to be more positive discussions taking place in the community.
“We’ll know on voting day,” Moller said.
All voting for the special election will take place Tuesday in the NLS High School gym.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Carlson said a large section of the high school parking lot will be reserved for voters to make it easy for people to access the building.