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SCSD moving forward with fourth building

District hopes to brainstorm uses for current middle school
Solon City Council member Mark Prentice, with Mayor Steve Stange and council member Steve Duncan, survey the concept site plan for the Solon Community School District’s fourth attendance center during a Dec. 7 meeting. (photo by Doug Lindner)

SOLON– The Solon Community School District’s (SCSD) fourth attendance center will be a $9.5 million project initially housing up to seven sections of fourth and fifth grade students.
The concept plan for the intermediate school was presented to the Solon City Council during a Dec. 7 meeting, and city and school officials are expected to hammer out details regarding the impact to water, sewer and roads over the coming months.
According to SCSD Superintendent Davis Eidahl, bids for the 44,225-square-foot building will be taken in January, with completion in the fall of 2018.
Eidahl noted the district opted for new construction because cost estimates for remodeling the current middle school threatened to exceed the maximum budget for a fourth center.
Council members took no action on the concept plan, but discussed the site design with Eidahl, SCSD Grounds and Transportation Director Mike Kasparek, board members Jim Hauer and Rick Jedlicka and district civil engineer Jon Larson of HBK Engineering.
“They’re just looking for feedback,” City Administrator Cami Rasmussen told council members, noting the district will submit a site plan to the Planning and Zoning Commission for consideration.
The new two-level structure will be located south and west of the current middle school on the grounds of the former high school football field and its adjacent practice area.
Access for visitors and parents will be off West Fifth Street, while faculty and buses will utilize a separate parking area connected to South Iowa Street.
According to Larson, the district will also take steps to address the drainage issues that have plagued the site and a neighboring subdivision.
The property and its border with Marshek Court will feature an earthen berm which will direct surface water to one of two detention basins on the site.
The concept plan also depicted a 27,080-square-foot future expansion to be bid as an alternate in January. The two-story addition would provide seven additional classrooms, a second gymnasium, makerspace room and restrooms at an estimated cost of $5.1 million. The addition would allow the district to move third grade to the intermediate from Lakeview Elementary.
When asked the fate of the current middle school building by Mayor Steve Stange, Kasparek told council members the district intends to maintain its administration offices in the 1917 portion of the building.
The lobby, auditorium, band and choir portions will be kept available, but the newer classroom annexes will be sealed off and utilities disconnected.
“Just mothball it for now,” Kasparek said.
Council members offered no concerns about the proposal, and Mayor Stange directed council members Steve Duncan and Mark Krall to work with school representatives as the process moves along.

When the fourth attendance center opens, it will be one of the last dominoes to fall in a significant facility upgrade for the district.
In September of 2014, district voters approved a $25.5 million bond issue for the construction of a new 809-seat auditorium addition to the high school and an approximately 75,000-square-foot, two-story fifth through eighth grade middle school on Racine Avenue immediately west of the high school.
But also a part of that long term plan was the utilization of future sales tax proceeds to adapt the existing middle school into an intermediate elementary for grades three through five.
The remodeling was abandoned, Eidahl said, when cost estimates rose to the limit of anticipated Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) funds, the sales tax revenue which will be used to pay for the fourth building.
Eidahl said the school is conservatively anticipating $10.5 million in SAVE funds.
Estimates for renovation by Struxture Architects of Waterloo came back between $10 and $10.5 million without contingencies, he said.
“You know, when you’re remodeling, you run into unexpected costs,” he said. “With a building of this age, you never know what you’re going to run into when you knock down a wall.”
In addition, renovation didn’t address some concerns about safety, traffic flow and parking, he noted.
“That’s why we decided to explore new construction,” he said.
Struxture employees visited with staff and administration in June and August to fine-tune the design, and presented a final proposal to school board members in November.
“With the board action last year that put tighter guidelines on open enrollment, and with the facilities that we’re constructing over the next couple of years,” Eidahl said, “it’s going to really help us manage growth and maintain our smaller class size for the next, at minimum, 15 years.”
The Solon Center for the Arts should be finished by the end of the year, he said. Seats are currently being installed in the auditorium, and crews are down to detail and finish work.
In addition to the new auditorium, the high school addition also included the relocation of the art room, a new life skills special education suite (in the former art room space), and practice rooms, a storage room and a new ensemble area for the vocal and instrumental music departments.
The district will celebrate its opening with an open house Sunday, Jan. 15, from 2-4 p.m., with guided- and self-guided tours through the facility.
The new middle school is on schedule for completion the first week of June, which is when the furniture will be delivered, Eidahl said.
It will open as a fifth through eighth grade center, but in fall of 2018, fifth graders will move to the intermediate building, joining fourth graders from Lakeview.