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To build or not to build

Published: Friday, March 1, 2013 1:50 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, March 1, 2013 1:54 p.m. CDT

SPRING VALLEY — Area residents attending the first open house at Hall High School were greeted by an array of buckets on the stage in the auditorium.

“This is not a set-up,” said Superintendent Mike Struna.

About 75 residents, school board members, high school staff and referendum committee members — and Spring Valley’s three mayoral candidates — attended Wednesday’s community informational open house, designed to provide information about the proposed new high school facility.

Struna said the buckets weren’t designed to convince voters of the need for a new school, but rather the result of an aging roof buried deep in snow.

“We found leaks we didn’t know we had,” he said.

Struna said the question of whether to make repairs to the nearly 100-year-old building at a cost of $18.2 million or to build a $32 million new building was a financial choice. He called the $18.2 million a “large bandage” as opposed to the new building being a 100-year-investment in the future.

“I feel it’s the right time to make that investment,” he said.

Board member Mike Morris agreed.

“We’re not enhancing any future children’s education with that $18.2 million,” he said.

The meeting began with architect Dave Patten explaining the proposed plan for the new building. Patten gave the chronology of the building, half of which was built in 1914.

He talked about the 30 different levels in the building, and the five elevators that would be needed if the renovation plan is chosen by voters. He also said the renovations would be a 10- to 20-year solution, and the same problems with the building would crop up again in the future.

Patton talked about the design of the new building, which was planned to keep some of the facade features, such as the sloped roof.

He said the three-story building was chosen to minimize the footprint of the new building and keep as much of the lawn as possible. The three-story building will also have less roof area and make travel times between classes quicker for students.

Spring Valley resident George Forsa asked if spending $32 million for a new school would translate into enhanced academic opportunities for students.

Struna said good teachers can teach anywhere, but they can teach even better with a good environment. He said the proposed larger classrooms are better for integrating technology and small group projects. In addition, locating math and science, and English and social studies, classrooms close together gives those teachers better opportunities to work together.

Struna said the biggest advantage of the new building is in the area of technology. He said the new building would be conducive to more computer labs and wireless Internet.

Another feature of the new building would be its improved security. Struna said the current building has 27 doors that lead to the outside. In addition, the spread-out nature of the building with its many stairways could make security a challenge in the case of an intruder.

The referendum asks for permission to borrow $32 million, with a 30-year payback period. However, the district is also applying for state construction grant money, which could cover more than 50 percent of the total cost of the project. The waiting list is long, and Struna said the Spring Valley Elementary District waited many years to be awarded its funds.

“If we do receive it, it would give the taxpayers some relief,” he said.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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