Lakeview seeks elbow room in school addition vote

COTTONWOOD – In the 12 years since it was built, a lot has changed at Lakeview School. One of the biggest and most pressing changes, school officials said Sunday, is that student enrollment has started to outgrow the building. Lakeview’s never needed a waiting list for preschool registration until now, Superintendent Chris Fenske said.

“It’s a good problem to have, but at the same time we don’t want to turn families away,” Fenske said to an audience of about 50 area community members on Sunday night.

To help address those needs, the Lakeview School District is considering building a 27,000 square-foot addition to the school building, and remodeling several existing classrooms and offices. The building proposal will go before the public in a special election on May 13. Sunday’s meeting was the first of three public information sessions the school district is holding before the vote.

One of the major features of the proposed building project would be an addition including preschool and elementary-level classrooms, a gymnasium and space for community education. More than 11,000 square feet of the existing school would also be remodeled, to offer expanded space for special education classrooms and reconfigured school offices.

The parking would also be expanded to allow more space for event parking, said Jeri Fink of architectural firm Wendel.

Under the proposed building plans, both the elementary and secondary school offices would be relocated closer to the school’s main entrances. This would help staff screen visitors and provide better security for the school, Fink said.

If approved, the cost of the building addition would be paid for through a $7.98 million bond, with a term of 19.5 years, said a representative of financial consulting group Ehlers. The bond would mean a property tax increase for taxpayers in the school district. In one example, for a residential property valued at $100,000, it was estimated that property taxes would increase about $47 in 2015.

Speakers said it was more complicated to try and estimate the bond’s tax impact on non-homestead agricultural land. However, a property tax calculator tool is available at the Lakeview School district website, along with other information on the proposed building addition.

Fenske said the proposed school addition is the end result of months of study, as well as input from community members who served on a building task force.

“The school board has been very clear that it wanted the process to include the community, be community-driven, and be transparent,” Fenske said. The task force identified several priorities for a building project, including school security, adequate educational space, flexibility, and community use.

The building was designed to serve about 600 students, Fenske said. In 2002, Lakeview’s K-12 enrollment was 564 students. Now, he said, it’s at 645 students. The number of preschoolers, kindergarteners, and students needing special education or other interventions have all grown, he said, but there’s no room to expand class sections. School security also needed updating. Fenske and Fink noted that the school’s main entrance leads into open space, and visitors could bypass the school offices.

Fenske said adding a third gymnasium would also help take some strain out of scheduling classes and events at the school. With elementary, junior high and high school students sharing two gyms, he said, it’s difficult to meet everyone’s needs for PE classes, athletics and other activities.

For example, during stretches of brutal cold this past winter, “Our kids had no place to go for activity time,” Fenske said. Gym time is also harder to come by for both student athletes and community events. “It’s more than athletics, it’s community education.”

Additional public information meetings will be at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Wood Lake Community Center and at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 7, at the Lakeview School auditorium.

Fenske and speakers Sunday night encouraged district taxpayers to attend the meetings and cast their vote on May 13. The polls will be open from 2-8 p.m. in Cottonwood and Wood Lake.