Community gives input on school options

Posted April 17, 2013 at 11:24 am

By Pete Temple, Express Sports Editor

Any possibility of new construction for the Monticello Community School District, not to mention how to pay for it, is a long way in the future.

But that didn’t stop FEH Associates, Inc. of Dubuque from conducting a two-day workshop at the district office Thursday and Friday, April 11 and 12, to try to formulate just what such construction might look like.

Taking the criteria that were selected at an April 2 meeting, and several of the top options that members of the public said would best fit the district’s needs, the company spent those days drawing and redrawing possible building options.

Citizens – with teachers making up a large percentage of them – stopped in periodically over the two days to check the progress, and eventually to vote on the options they felt were best.

Two of those options emerged with the most support:

• Building a new pre-K through eighth-grade facility on the spot where the current high school softball fields and soccer field sit.

• Connecting a grade 6-8 building to the current high school, and building a pre-K through fifth-grade building over the current high school softball and soccer fields.

Other options were studied, such as new construction on the current Shannon Elementary site or the Carpenter site. Still others looked at the possibility of the district acquiring land on Welter Drive near the Jones Regional Education Center, for new construction.

But the options at the high school site received the greatest support from those who came in.

FEH started the workshops on Thursday by asking and answering the question, “What fits where?” It looked at acreage needs for a variety of new facilities, and determined whether or not certain kinds of new buildings would fit on sites the district currently owns.

For instance, the high school property is 70 acres, while needs for a new pre-K through eighth-grade facility would encompass anywhere from 13.5 to 23 acres.

Original plans looked at having construction built where the current football practice field is, along with land south of there, but it was later determined that is part of the 100-year flood plain, so those plans were quickly scrapped and reworked.

Each plan took into account parking, bus and safety needs. What wasn’t answered was the question of where to provide space for the activities, particularly softball and soccer, that would be displaced.

Citizens were also invited to write comments, pro and con, about each site. For the K-8 building plan, positive comments included “Like all one campus,” which was echoed by several others, and “was main plan when land was purchased.”

Cons included “safety of young students,” “traffic and entrances,” and concern about having “one cafeteria and one gym for pre-K through eighth-grade.”

For the add-on and new pre-K through fifth-grade option, the idea of one campus was also praised. Questions included “enough parking?” and “assumes extra land on south end.”

The company, and the district, will continue to study the options. FEH was scheduled to present its findings to the Monticello Lions Club at a meeting April 15.