School Board Hears Presentations For Facilities Study

Community buy-in is central to school district facilities upgrades.

At a special meeting Tuesday, the Yankton School Board took the next step in choosing a firm to conduct a facilities condition assessment with an emphasis on early-childhood education.

The three groups presenting — Koch Hazard Architects/Wold Architects and Engineers, Co-op Architecture/DLR Group and JLG Architects —were chosen out of nine respondents to a request for proposal and chosen by the Buildings & Grounds Committee, according to the agenda.

Each group was given about 45 minutes of the board’s time to present its particular approach to school district projects and how they viewed their role.

“We really want to make a difference in the communities we serve,” said one of the representatives from Wold. “It makes us ask, ‘How can we build ownership from your community around what we are doing?’”

One architectural firm is expected to be chosen to conduct the assessment which could lead to updates on existing facilities or new construction.

The Yankton School District has some older structures that don’t comply with American with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards and would be expensive to upgrade or expand.

In particular, two of the presenters mentioned Beadle Elementary School in those terms.

Once the physical condition of the structures is assessed, planning can begin, but the community must understand the “why” before a solution is presented, he said.

It’s your project, not ours, his colleague added.

Each presented on working with the school district and residents to develop plans appropriate for the community in various ways.  

The Wold representative discussed a community-based Facilities Planning Committee that comprised school staff, administration and community members, including stakeholders, such as parents and students.

Co-Op Architecture/DLR Group touched on the benefit on including students in the planning phases of school projects,

“We were replacing an older elementary school and each student from the K-5 level wrote about what they loved about their current school and what they wanted to see in their new school, with drawings,” said one of the presenters for Co-op Architecture/DLR Group. “It impacted what we did. There were several who mentioned wanting a tree fort, so, the media center we designed, we had a tree fort that kids could read in.”

There is a lot of information that needs to be shared with communities in an open dialog at affected learning centers, she said.

“But, you don’t always get all the opinions. You get the loud voices, but you don’t always get the quiet ones,” she continued.  “A survey is something we can help you with to get that input.”

The Co-Op Architecture/DLR Group presenter said that once all the information was gathered from all stakeholders, the group would consolidate it into a report with options and recommendations.

One of the principals for JLG Architects gave a short video presentation during the JLG pitch.

“I could give you my own opinion of what you need to do exactly, as far as the number of buildings that you need, grade levels in each building and whether you should build new or remodel your current facilities,” he said. “In reality, it’s not us who needs to decide, it’s you: the board, the staff, the administration and the community that needs to decide those final answers.”

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