During the WCA School Board meeting last Wednesday, both West Central Area School Board chair Michelle Nessman and Superintendent Dale Hogie addressed a publication concerning the WCA South Elementary in Kensington. The publication, which was sent to boxholders in the WCA School District by the WCA Citizens For Progress (WCACFP), cited a study, commissioned by the City of Kensington, claiming independent engineers found the Kensington school could be refurbished for around $4,550,000, much cheaper than building a new school building in Hoffman.
Nessman said school board members were getting questions about this. So she asked Engen and Associates Engineering to look at the study. They found the study focused on the current condition of the building with no plans for future use. She said the school board could not put a bond issue before the voters that does not include addressing structural issues, new furniture, and updates to the infrastructure, making the refurbishing good for only five years or so.
“The way we build schools today is not the way they were built 50 years ago,” she said, claiming the WCACFP does not address that.
Hogie said with the amount of data shared with the public on the levy referendum over the years, there is a risk community members may misinterpret or misrepresent data.
Several misrepresentations were evident in the recent publication put out by the WCACFP, he said. The limited space of the current South site prohibits adding additional space to address academic and program improvements, he added. He said the WCA school board chose to avoid spending millions of dollars to partially address structural and mechanical needs that are beyond their useful life.
“Instead, the board proposal (to build a new school in Hoffman) addresses all facility needs in a more fiscally responsible approach.”
The board proposal also addresses current academic and program needs, he said.
He recalled that the City of Kensington originally presented the school board with two options for a new South Elementary location in Kensington, and it was only after the board decided to accept Hoffman’s proposal that the City of Kensington expressed an interest in refurbishing the current building.
He said the engineers assessment of the building gave no indication it was to address the physical needs of the building. There was no mention of replacing the original plumbing, grading for drainage, sidewalk replacement, cost of asbestos abatement, cabinet replacement, or flooring replacement. There was no space allocation for HVAC duct work, air handling equipment, or restroom accessibility.
“Most obviously missing was a construction cost projection for a 20,000 square foot addition to accomodate for academic programming and services that are included in the proposed new construction,” Hogie explained, adding that the limited space of the current South site prohibits adding additional space to address this academic programing and services without sacrificing all off-street parking and green space.
“It appears the company hired to complete the assessment had not been informed of the academic and program deficiencies that can only be accommodated through expansion.”
Hogie also said the publication, published by the WCACFP, includes accusatory statements directed at him and professional companies hired to provide projections and data related to construction project options.
“It is the WCA Board members, through their thorough evaluation of the data, which determined the three proposals for the ballot questions,” Hogie said, adding. “In some instances, baseless statements and inflammatory claims were made that have no connection to the project.”
Supt. Hogie updated the school board on recent problems with WCA food services. He explained that WCA participates in a Lakes Country Service Cooperative (LCSC) group purchase agreement for purchase and delivery of food for breakfast and lunch programs. The company providing food products and delivery has experienced difficulty in filling orders which has led to shortages at WCA and other schools. The vender gave notice they would terminate the contract on November 1, 2021.
Hogie said LCSC has tried to secure another vender but has been unable to because of product availability and workforce shortages.
WCA Business Manager Diane Powers has been working to secure a vendor and just heard back from one that is willing to take WCA on. They will deliver at least once a week. They are working on the logistics to see if they will stop at all three sites, or just make one stop in Barrett, and WCA will be responsible for distribution to the elementary schools.
Meanwhile, breakfast and lunches continue to be served at all sites.