Group talks facilities plan at school board meeting

MARSHALL – Three members of Energy Services Group were on hand to give a recap and ask for approval of the Long-Range Facilities Plan at the Marshall School Board meeting Tuesday.

Kevin McGauley, Scott Schroeder and Joe Henn spoke to the board about a potential plan of action, having worked on the project for the past two years. They asked for the board’s approval to go ahead with a review and comment document to the Minnesota Department of Education, and the board unanimously voted to do so.

“We took a look at existing facilities, searching for opportunities for improvement and ultimately, implementing those improvements,” McGauley said. “We’ve helped Minnesota schools with roughly $350 million worth of those types of improvements. We can oftentimes draw from those experiences and perhaps bring best practices to give you a quality solution at the best possible cost. And we’re excited to be here as part of the planning team here at Marshall Schools.”

Marshall Middle School has the most need for improvement in energy efficiency, ventilation systems and temperature/humidity control.

“You are less efficient than you could be, and that is making you pay extra,” McGauley said. “Many of the air systems are original ones that have exceeded their life expectancy. And most spaces at the middle school do not meet ventilation requirements.”

Along with the building’s age and quality, school size and class size, inadequate air quality, ventilation, temperature/humidity, lighting and acoustics affect student achievement, a national study said.

“It can amount to a 10 percent increase in student absence,” McGauley said. “Asthma is the number one reason for school absences. Reinvesting in facilities can improve student achievement by 10-14 percent.”

The MMS improvements are estimated to be around $7 million, followed by Park Side ($500,000) and Marshall High School ($150,000). Schroeder said now was a good time to make those improvement, some of which will pay for themselves over time.

“There is a perfect storm happening right now,” Schroeder said. “Interest rates are at a 40-year low.”

Eventually, ESG got creative and is helping the district apply for QZAB (qualified zoning academic bonds) from the state. Marshall qualifies because of its high (over 35 percent) free and reduced lunch population. Roughly $8 million is earmarked for Marshall. And the board can still alter the scope of the project or even back out in the next few months if it decides the plan is unfavorable for any reason.

Marshall Superintendent Scott Monson shared the results of a recent survey, highlighting the board’s focus areas. The district’s facilities study topped the list, followed by career and technical education, student performance and technology planning and direction.

While fiscal responsibility was not on the list, Monson believes that priority is a goal that is already built in. Workforce development and collaboration, communications, principal evaluation, flexible learning year and support systems alignment also made the list.