Public can share their thoughts on WDC facility upgrades this winter
Listening sessions will allow the public, staff, students and school board to weigh in on facility needs in the coming years.
WADENA — Wadena-Deer Creek School District residents will have a chance to be heard concerning plans for major facility upgrades at the middle/high school during a public listening session planned for the evening of Monday, January 16 or Wednesday, Jan. 18 by Zoom.
More details on those sessions will be forthcoming. They are all planned for 1 hour in length. Prior to this meeting, the school board will have their first session on the facility plan on Monday, January 9 in conjunction with their organizational meeting, typical for the first meeting of the new year. School staff can expect a session on Monday, January 16, a day they have off, due to Martin Luther King Jr., Day. Students will weigh in on Tuesday, January 17. These dates were selected during the latest WDC School board meeting on Oct. 17.
The district is working with ICS, Inc., for professional services related to these projects. They are hosting the “stakeholder meetings'' as a way to first gather information and assess the needs of the district. From that they will create or hone in on a facility plan that ICS has helped the board develop.
Once a facility plan is approved by the board, ICS will be assisting the board with crafting referendum planning, if the approved plan requires a public referendum. Some of the upgrades won’t require a referendum, rather it's expected either long term facility maintenance or abatement funds could be used on many of the projects.
The third phase, if the funding is there, possibly by a referendum approval, is to implement the plan.
There is a lot of work to be done from now until then, but much work has already been done to create a long wish list of items that the district could improve. The listening sessions could guide the direction of these items or if others are needed.
To kick things off, the school board approved paying ICS $10,000 for phase 1 and another $10,000 for phase 2. If the plan goes no further than phase 1, they won’t end up paying for the next phase.
The facility and site upgrade ideas are plentiful.
Deferred maintenance items, maintenance work that is postponed due to limitations in available resources, include the following areas, with a plan to pay for them out of the long term facility maintenance fund.
- Track and Field Surface, $500,000
- Track and Field Lighting, $451,900. This work was already approved at a significantly lower cost of $272,000 and is set to be done in February.
- Football Field Bleachers, $607,800. Includes 700 seats and press box. Plus 300 seat visitor section at $98,700.
- Baseball Field Bleachers, $97,000 for 150 seats and a cover.
- Softball Field Bleachers, $97,000 for 150 seats and a cover.
- Baseball/softball field fencing replacement, $362,600
- Tennis Courts, $534,300
- Additional kindergarten - second grade playground and equipment, $364,700
- M-State playground resurface and new equipment addition, $158,700.
- Football field turf, $2.06 million
Referendum funding ideas
These options were listed under a possible referendum vote: Concession Stand remodel, ($257,400); a new cold storage building ($121,600); ADA compliant sidewalks ($114,400); additional tech education space ($1.97 million); shaded area for HS/MS patio ($75,100); and last but certainly not least, an auditorium addition, with 350-400 seats ($7.72 million)
Coming from the abatement fund could be money to remodel the parent pickup and drop off area and parking modifications ($1.35 million).
Taking all that in, there is a total estimated cost of $16.94 million for all the identified projects. Actual costs are likely to change and, as was noted, the lighting project is already coming out of this total. Based on comments from all groups, the school board will be tasked with creating a priority list in the winter and spring of 2023.
These projects are intended to provide more room in areas where space has been shown to be limited and upgrade facilities that are aging. Many of these projects come from areas of concern identified in a 2016-2017 listening session, including a need for more classrooms, storage and an increased shop area size. A quick glance over the results of the 2016 listening session shows that the district has already made most of the updates identified especially concerning upgrades at the elementary school.
Taking on such a major group of projects comes with an expected enrollment increase that’s been gradually rising since about 2012, according to enrollment projections and actuals.
Back in 2016, it was projected that enrollment would increase by 16% in 10 years. It’s tracking very close to that, down about 20 students from projections for 2022. Enrollment was at 1,064 in October 2022. With more students, classrooms inch closer to crowding.
The big first step in all this is phase 1, where the space needs, education adequacy and facility needs will be analyzed based on comments from the board, staff, students and the public. If you have thoughts on the outcome of this plan, plan to attend one of these listening sessions to be heard.
The board has been shown estimates for tax impact based on various bond amounts. More on those costs will be reviewed once more concrete numbers are landed on. A quick view shows that a $150,000 residential homestead could see annual tax of $25 with a $3 million bond; $63 with a $5 million bond; and $125 for a $10 million bond, all over 20 years.