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CCA school board takes its first look at high school expansion

OXFORD— With Tiffin Elementary nearly done and the first phase of the middle school expansion and renovation in progress, the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) school board turned its attention to the high school and a planned expansion scheduled to start next spring.
All three projects, along with HVAC and other improvements at Amana Elementary, are part of a $48 million bond issue voters approved in 2014.
Keith Johnk with Shive-Hattery Architectural and Engineering presented the preliminary designs to the board at their regular meeting on Wednesday, July 15, at Clear Creek Elementary in Oxford. Johnk told the board he’d met with high school principal Mark Moody, superintendent Tim Kuehl and other staff members to work out the details and nail down the design.
“The budget (via the bond issue) called for eight general classrooms and four science classrooms,” Johnk said. But, “Mark (Moody) surveyed his staff and what we’ve ended up with is 10 general classrooms, two new science rooms, and a couple of support spaces (for the teachers) and project rooms and conference spaces for the students.”
The expansion will consist of a two-story addition on the north side with two general classrooms and two science classrooms.
The science rooms will be configured exactly like the four existing science rooms with general studies areas in front and labs in back. Both rooms will be connected by a teacher prep room.
Also included on the first floor is a new corridor to ensure adequate exits, an elevator meeting new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements to access the second floor, two single-stall bathrooms and a mechanical room for heating/cooling/ventilation. The elevator was an addition to the plan due to the travel distance involved for students in wheelchairs or scooters to get to the existing elevator.
The second floor will have six general classrooms arranged and outfitted to match the current classrooms, down to the cabinetry.
“One change we are going to make,” Johnk said, “is to put an operable partition in between a couple of rooms so they can open them up and do collaborative projects, (or) open it up and have a larger area for teacher and staff meetings.”
A pair of smaller classrooms will also have a movable room divider to offer flexibility, with an eye toward accommodating space needs or collaborative projects. The teachers will also have their own team room, for use as a teacher prep room and meeting space.
Space exists for a future expansion, which Johnk said would mirror the new addition with the potential for a courtyard or student commons area in between.
Johnk also reviewed two options for expanding the Physical Education (PE) area and gymnasium. Originally the south wall of the current gym was to be knocked out, with a 6,700 square-foot renovation of the existing weight room and wrestling room into an additional gym. New weight and wrestling rooms would be built on the east side of the school, with space on the south end saved for future expansion.
The addition would give the facility, “a field house look. That was the thought when the building was originally designed,” Kuehl said.
But, Kuehl added, seating in the new gym was only available on the ends.
“It would be nearly impossible to have any sort of a game in there,” he said. “It would be a practice space.”
Moody and CCA Athletic Director Kurt Ronnfeldt had spoken with other WaMaC conference schools that had gone to this physical arrangement, and wished they hadn’t, Kuehl noted. “They all said, ‘It works okay, but if we had it to do all over again, we wouldn’t,’” because of noise between the two gyms during practice and games.
“The thinking right now,” Johnk said, “is that it would be preferable to have a completely separate second gym.” The current design would only allow four or five feet of space along the sidelines. “You wouldn’t be able to put your teams along there.”
In its place, a second option was designed as a two-story addition, renovating the weight and fitness rooms, adding a second floor to the existing room and adding a 7,300-square foot gymnasium on the south side, which would be large enough for seating along the north wall. On the east side of the building, space would be reserved for a future locker room and other rooms. The change brings an additional cost though– between $400,000 and $500,000, according to Johnk.
“But you gain significantly more space, and it’s still well within your bond,” he added. “The idea is, with your continued growth, you’re going to have freshman games, sophomore games, etcetera.”
The idea morphed to include a second story with a wrestling room and weight room, and then morphed again, when building engineer Maury Gallagher proposed adding an elevated running track.
“Right now we’re running everybody up and down the hallway (along the south side of the gym). That’s why we put in a rubberized floor, and it’s helped immensely for what we have, but as we grow, I see the need for having an additional area,” Gallagher said. Placing the track around the outside of the new addition would gain three times the amount of space for students to train and run than the school has now, he said. Meanwhile, the space under the track could be utilized for athletic equipment storage, something the building lacks.
Johnk said the design had not gone far since moving away from the original concept of a field house.
“We wanted to get your thoughts,” he told the board. “Right now we’re showing this (option two) as one big space, but it could be subdivided depending on what you wanted.”
A cost estimate for adding an overhead track has not been determined, and Kuehl asked the board for a consensus to authorize Johnk and Shive-Hattery to further develop the second design option, which would offer more flexibility.
Johnk plans to put the project out for bid by late winter. One advantage this project has, he noted, is that it isn’t dependent on any other project’s completion.
Phase two of the middle school expansion and renovation is on hold pending the completion of the addition, now optimistically scheduled for mid-December, according to district construction manager Ray Willoughby. Board president Steve Swenka asked Johnk about the bidding environment and if there was much interest by contractors in the project at this point.
“We’re receiving calls everyday (from contractors) asking what we have coming up,” he replied. “It’s very good right now, at least from a general (contractor) standpoint.”
Johnk said projects at the University of Iowa are taking up a lot of mechanical and electrical contractors, however general contractors are looking hard for work.
In other construction-related news, a cornerstone laying ceremony will be held at Tiffin Elementary on Saturday, Aug. 1, at 2 p.m., marking completion of the new school.