By Chris Umscheid
North Liberty Leader
OXFORD– If voters in the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) school district approve a $48 million bond issue in February, the district board of directors wants to do more than just hit the ground running.
The board wants to be able to move ground and begin construction as quickly as possible to make room for students as buildings become increasingly cramped. That means drawing plans now so the related projects can go out for bid right after the election, with construction work beginning later in the spring.
At a special meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 26, the directors met at Clear Creek Elementary in Oxford with Keith Johnk of Shive Hattery to review a preliminary site plan for a proposed new elementary on the east side of Tiffin, as well as conceptual drawings of the proposed expansion of the middle school, also in Tiffin.
The site plan addressed a 55-acre parcel of land on the northeast corner of the intersection of Highway 6 and Jasper Avenue. Johnk showed three buildings comfortably fitting there, along with two athletic fields, parking lots and an intercampus service road. The board approved a purchase agreement, contingent on passage of the bond issue, earlier this month.
Johnk said Shive Hattery is already working with the City of Tiffin and the Iowa Department of Transportation, including conducting a traffic study on Highway 6, to determine the potential impact of the school site. He also said the budget for site development would include extending water and sewer lines, and pointed out the advantage to the City of Tiffin to have the lines in place as development continues on the east side of town. Shive Hattery is expected to resume discussions with the city after the holidays to see if there is any interest in a joint venture for the utilities. The city has already made plans to pave Jasper Avenue, Johnk said.
Johnk envisions a phased approach to developing the land, which is broken into two parcels. Lot 1 contains 34.91 acres, for which the district would pay $1,383,250. Lot 2, to be donated by the seller, is 18.39 acres. Phase one would be the new elementary, based on the design of North Bend Elementary in North Liberty, with three classroom pods, a pre-kindergarten pod and room for an additional fifth pod if needed later. The design would accommodate 650-700 students total if the fifth pod were added. Current plans are for a standard elementary-sized gymnasium rather than the large facility at North Bend, which was funded in part by the City of North Liberty for use by the city’s recreation department.
Phase two of development would likely be another elementary school, a twin to the first, while phase three could potentially be another middle school, if expected continued enrollment growth continues.
Johnk showed the board a revised conceptual drawing of the proposed expansion and renovation of the current middle school, noting changes prompted by public input at a meeting held recently in Amana, as well as input from board members and middle school principal Brad Fox.
The addition would be located on the west side of the school and have two floors. The main entrance would be relocated from the east side to the west, as would the cafeteria, and media center. A clerestory would provide north light to the library and to the cafeteria. Johnk said north light is ideal, as there is no glare associated with it. Board member Jim Seelman asked if solar panels could be utilized on the addition as well.
In Iowa, Johnk explained, solar power is not cost effective as 50 percent of the days are overcast, and wind is a more effective way to generate power. However, Fox noted a previous study indicated only the North Bend property was suitable for wind energy generation. Johnk also cited a study about a large, $3 million solar panel array installed by the University of Iowa that only generates about $30,000 in savings each year, leading to a long payback on the investment.
The new main entrance would be incorporated into a 16’ x 16’ glass vestibule with a control point where all visitors would be buzzed into a reception area for increased security. Fox said having such an area would be a major improvement over the current facility. But, in a nod to societal changes and increased concerns over school safety and security, district superintendent Tim Kuehl pointed out, “if somebody really has ill intentions, they’ll find a way in.” Johnk also said corridors would allow access to the gym and auditorium while securing the rest of the building.
Board member Bob Broghammer asked about the estimated $50,000 cost of an entry wall and signage identifying the building. Broghammer said his concern was seats for kids, and felt the $50,000 could be better utilized. A lengthy debate ensued, with Johnk defending the wall from a design aesthetics and functionality standpoint, and Fox extolling the importance of signage. As comments moved into finer design details and away from the overall concept, Kuehl redirected the discussion, asking for and receiving a general consensus on the look of the building. Kuehl told Johnk the general design was good, but suggested a, more cost-effective approach to the sign and canopy.
“I’m glad you sent us back to the drawing board,” Johnk said of the revised design, and emphasized the preliminary stage of the design.