The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

October 16, 2012

Change of plans at new Clinton middle school

Clinton School Board pushing for 3 grades in proposed middle school right away

By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer

CLINTON — Sixth-grade students will join their seventh- and eighth-grade peers in the new Clinton middle school if the wills of the Clinton School Board members prevail through the remainder of the project.  

The board met Monday for a special work session to discuss the financial plan for funding the new middle school.

In addition to being in consensus regarding sixth-grade students being in the new building, board members agreed the remainder of the $20 million cost should be funded through a 1-cent sales tax revenue bond, which will be issued in spring 2013.    

Months ago, the board approved a plan for the new middle school that would involve two wings for only seventh- and eighth-grade students with a price tag of $20 million.  

The plans also included some facilities, such as a third wing, that would allow sixth-grade students to attend.  However, it was decided these pieces would be completed later due to cost constraints.  Now, the school board is set on moving all three grades into the building once it is complete.

In order to allow more room for sixth-grade students, art rooms in the proposed third wing would be replaced with four classrooms, two on the top floor and two on the bottom.  This could be completed at a cost of around $900,000.

However, according to Superintendent Deb Olson, the school could house all three grades without the addition of the four classrooms.  

“To be honest, with the number of kids that we have right now, I don’t even think we need to add that,” Olson said. “We can do it. It’s going to be full, but we can do it. It would involve that some teachers would share classrooms, so they wouldn’t have they’re own individual classrooms, but we can make a go of it.”

During the discussion, board members addressed the potential impact of the Thomson prison opening, which could increase enrollment in the district. With an increased enrollment, Olson said, it would be a tight fit for all three grades in the new building.   

“I think we’d be foolhardy to not include building those classrooms at this time,” board member Jim McGraw said.

By bonding for the new school with the addition of the third-wing classrooms, the board could face operating with a negative cash balance longer than the three- to four-year time period projected by Matthew Gillaspie, senior vice president of PiperJaffray, earlier this month. The school would rely on other funding mechanisms that are available, such as interfund loaning to get through that period. The board’s decisions will affect the district’s finances for at least the next 17 years until the 1-cent sales tax is scheduled to sunset in 2029.    

Ultimately, board members agreed uniting the three grades into one building is a high priority, regardless of what building plans are approved.  

“If we’re all set on putting on three grades there, we’ll find a way to do it,” board president Gregg Obren said.

The next step will be for the board to approve the construction plans for the building, which will then be followed putting the project out to bid, likely in November. Those who submit bids will be asked to do so for the middle school as proposed with two wings as well as the alternative design with the four classrooms in the prospective third wing.