Additional real-world, hands-on learning is becoming more of a reality for students in the Redwood Area School District as plans progress toward the construction of the Estebo career training and development center.

The most updated design plans were presented to the Redwood Area Board of Education at its meeting this past Monday by John McNamara and Melissa Stein of Wold Architects, and at the end of the discussion the school board authorized Wold Architects to proceed with the solicitation of bids for the project.

The idea of the center, said Stein, is to provide as many flexible learning places as is possible, adding the spaces will focus in several areas from agriculture to manufacturing, dedicated to not only providing classroom settings but areas for students to put what they are learning into practice.

According to McNamara, the current plan comes with a price tag of approximately $3.3 million for construction, which includes the building of the addition as well as finishing the adjacent parking lot, and $600,000 for fees, furnishings and contingency.

An additional $200,000 is estimated for an alternate bid that would add space for the music department. In total, the estimated cost for the project is in the $4.1 million range, said McNamara.

As part of the discussion, Rick Ellingworth, Redwood Area School District superintendent raised questions about additional safety and security measures, adding there has been some discussion at the state level by legislators to allow schools to use its discretionary levy authority for health and safety. 

Those dollars could be used to add measures such as bullet proof glass to its buildings. While no decision has been made at the state level, Ellingworth said it is important for the district to keep an eye on the progress and be ready if it happens.

“We want to do this project right,” said Ellingworth.

McNamara said adding bullet proof glass could be an option, but it would change some of the specifications, for the building, as framing for the windows would have to be changed to allow for thicker glass.

Clark Grannes, school board member, wondered if the plan included blockades in front of the main doors at that location, and McNamara said while the current design does not include bollards like the ones at the main school entrance they could be added pretty easily.

The current plan would be to solicit bids in March, with those bids then presented to the school board at its March meeting. If a bid is approved at that time, the process would move froward with construction them scheduled to start soon after the school year comes to an end.

McNamara said the plan would still be to have it completed in early 2019 allowing for students to begin utilizing the space during the second semester of the 2018-19 school year.

Following the presentation of the plans from Wold, the school board held a discussion with Andrea Uhl of Ehlers Financial Services to discuss the schools lease purchase financing plan.

The board has approved moving forward with that option with a $2 million levy, but with the potential for additional costs the school board heard a proposal that could increase that amount to $2.4 million. The school board has the option using lease purchase to levy up to $212 per student, with a maximum amount of $275,000 per year.

According to Ellingworth, the idea would be to have this option available to make sure that the center is done right from the beginning and is set up for the future.

With the school board receiving a $1 million gift from Orrin Estebo for the project and dedicating $500,000 of its reserves, the remaining funds would come through the lease purchase option.

Those lease purchase dollars can only be used for new construction.

Moving from the $2 million to the $2.4 million would have minimal tax impact, said Uhl, as the annual taxes on a residential homestead with a value of $200,000 would be $26 under the $2 million levy and would be $31 annually at the $2.4 million level.

Ag land with a value of $7,000 per acre would increase from 51 cents per acre to 61 cents per acre.

Uhl said at the meeting Monday that the plan was to distribute the request for proposals March 1, with those proposals then due March 22 for school board review at its March 26 meeting.

The school board left the door open to the possibility of increasing the lease purchase option to $2.4 million but did not make a formal decision.

Design courtesy of the Wold Architects