Facilities among numerous school board talking points

MARSHALL – One of the many items Marshall Public School board members were presented with and discussed at a work session meeting Monday was a strategic discussion on facilities report from Kevin McGauley of Energy Services Group (ESG).

McGauley noted that a comprehensive inventory had been compiled for the district the past six months and that there were a number of options available in regards to future maintenance of the facilities.

“You have options,” he said. “We’ll be handing the ball off to you now. You’re Adrian Peterson, and I’m Matt Cassel or Christian Ponder.”

McGauley walked the board through issues such as building life expectancies, energy efficiency, ventilation, temperature and humidity and the correlation between those and student achievement, noting that ESG found that the MPS district had kept up its facilities “very well.”

“We are providing you options, including good, better and best options,” McGauley said. “We don’t advocate for any particular one of them. It’s your decision. You have to decide what’s best for your district.”

McGauley pointed out that a new elementary facility, with 75,000 new square feet, would cost between $16-23 million. An additional 55 square feet onto the Marshall Middle School would cost the district between $10-15 million. A West Side expansion, with 20,000 square feet added, would run between $6-7.5 million in remodeling costs.

“Reinvestment can create a more modern facility,” McGauley said. “Districts don’t automatically have to rebuild.”

There are a number of concerns to take into consideration, however, McGauley said, including operating efficiency/cost control, deferred maintenance/aging capital and other issues.

“There’s a menu of items of which you can select,” he said. “We’ve identified $1,028,301 in facility reinvestment and energy efficiency improvements in all the buildings (with the exception of Marshall High School).”

McGauley noted that now was the time to begin making strategic decisions, with historically low interest rates and construction costs that are flat.

“It’s the perfect storm,” he said. “It’s encouraging for consumers.”

While there is much to discuss yet, MPS Superintendent Klint Willert said he was pleased with the “extremely thorough” report that ESG provided. ESG has more than 90 partnerships, including 45 with Minnesota K-12 districts.

Brian Jones, Shirley Greenfield, Sue Bowen and Vickie Radloff also spoke to the board about Minnesota State testing. The state is recommending a focus shift from the current form of state testing to college and career preparation and is allowing more local control, when it comes to making the decision on which test(s) to use in replacement of the grad test, for the next few years.

“Our goal tonight is to lay out the background of what testing has been and point out the new pathways that are emerging,” Jones said. “You’ll have a big decision to make regarding policy in the future.”

The idea is to transition toward individual learning plans that focus on the success of each individual student, rather than relying on the high-stakes, high-anxiety state tests, Bowen said.

“I’m a firm believer that students are a product created over time,” she said.

Regardless of what type of testing model (ACT, ASVAB, etc…) the district chooses, students still have to pass district expectations, which include 30.5 credits of high level courses.

“We do have a lot of rigor built in,” Bowen said. “When we started testing in 1997, it was pretty basic. Now we (the state) are going more toward career and college preparation. It’s great, but it’s a new way of looking at it.”

Board members also learned that three school districts had expressed interest in forming cooperative agreements. One of two students were interested in joining gymnastics, Willert said, while Russell-Tyler-Ruthton had about four students who wanted to join the MPS wrestling program. Board members seemed in favor of those pairing, especially since the cooperation would not affect the district’s current classification.

A third district showed interest in a cooperative agreement for boys hockey, but a number of board members did not appear to be in favor of the opportunity because it would cause MPS to move up a class, which would not be ideal for its participants, especially in regards to section travel.

Willert also updated the board on the conference reconfiguration process, noting that it looked like the Southwest and South Central Conferences would be moving forward with the merge.

“Athletic directors for the 13 different schools have been meeting about once a week and it looks like it will be merged,” he said. “It looks like the new name might be the Southern Plains or the Greater Southern Plains Conference. At this point in time, the plan is moving forward.”