Plans were recently unveiled for possible renovations to the Neligh-Oakdale School buildings.
According to Supt. Kim Lingenfelter, there are numerous building and safety issues that need to be addressed. Before moving forward, she said the Board of Education's Building and Grounds committee decided to conduct a special meeting to gather input from patrons of the district.
Last Wednesday night, 86 patrons of the school district attended an informational meeting in Neligh-Oakdale's old gym.
"I was very impressed with the community turnout for our first public forum," Lingenfelter said. "The stakeholders of Neligh-Oakdale Public Schools are involved and conducted themselves in a professional manner."
President Carrie Pitzer called the meeting to order and introduced board members Brad Higgins, chairman of the building and grounds committee; Del Ames, committee member; Traci Jacobsen and administrators were also in attendance.
Higgins faciltated the meeting by first presenting more than 20 building code and safety issues, including the lack of egress windows for students to escape in case of fire. Other concerns were lack of sprinklers, asbestos/lead, non-compliance with ADA, an old boiler, piping interference, ceiling heights below minimums and kitchen code problems. Although some of the issues are present in the West Ward Elementary building, the majority of the problems are in the East Ward Elementary and high school buildings, according to Lingenfelter.
The Building and Grounds committee, Lingenfelter said, has been working on a plan to resolve these issues for about two years, when the problems were discovered during an energy audit. A vision for the district was presented to the public before touring the facility. The vision included moving West Ward Elementary students to East Ward by adding onto the East Ward site. The new addition would be attached to the north side of the building and have elementary classrooms, a new gym, storage and a new band room. Also in the vision, East Ward would be renovated and would feature a kitchen remodel, new multi-purpose room and relocation of the superintendent's office.
This photo, courtesy of Neligh-Oakdale, shows flooding that occurred last fall in the basement, where much of the focus has been by the Building and Grounds committee.
An ag building to be used for auto shop/building trades would be constructed across the street where the east parking lot is currently located. A new eight-lane track would be installed in place of the current six-lane track that has been deemed unsafe for meets. These ideas were presented in order to receive input from the public. The vision would cost an estimated $9.6 million and would need to be bonded over a 20-year period, Lingenfelter said. The actual amount is uncertain at this time since no architectural drawings have been made because the Building and Grounds committee wanted to seek input from the community before moving forward, Lingenfelter said. She said the school is exploring grant opportunities, but does not qualify for any at this time.
The board will have to decide whether or not to place a bond issue on the ballot at their August meeting. Neligh-Oakdale currently has an enrollment of 366 students, not including preschool. Lingenfelter said a 2004 feasibility projected the school's enrollment would be at 271 students by 2012-13. Neligh-Oakdale's enrollment has been steady for the last 10 years, she said.
About 50 people volunteered to be on and attended a second facility committee meeting Monday. The next committee meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday. The group toured West Ward on Monday and began sharing their vision for the school. Lingenfelter said these meetings are intended to look at several layouts and prioritize challenges.
"I look forward to working with interested patrons as we begin essential facilities planning during the month of March," the superintendent said. "This is a community project, and these volunteers will be the voice of this venture during our next public forum. The Building and Grounds committee and I thank them for their service to the students of Neligh-Oakdale Public Schools, as we face facility challenges and tax burdens."