Village receives school building project update

By Susan Hartley

April 2, 2014

By Jennifer Runyon

For the Daily Call


COVINGTON – A meeting held recently to update the community on the Covington Exempted Village Schools building project revealed some long-awaited details. Through partnership with the state, the district is building one kindergarten through eighth grade building and renovating the high school.

The K-6 grade portion of the building will be broken into pods with each grade level having three rooms. The seventh and eighth grade portion will be more like a traditional school building and will connect to the high school near the commons area. The state will co-fund a breezeway connection, but the district would like to make the entrance secure. This is beyond what would be co-funded.

Superintendent Dave Larson reminded everyone that no plans are final.

“Nothing is set in stone,” he said.

The exterior will be red brick with light limestone brick base and matching trim. Larson shared that some districts that used block for their buildings have had problems. This, in addition to appearance, is why red brick was chosen.

“We thought the community would think it looks nice. It fits in with Covington,” Larson said.

Larson plans to put pictures of the new buildings on the district Website within a few weeks.

Currently, the district is in the Design Development Phase and will be so until June.

According to Larson, the architects have been talking with staff members about items such as furniture, technology placement, and overall look of the classrooms.

This summer the district will be in the Construction Development Phase and will bid the project sometime in the fall. The project will be bid as one unit rather than taking multiple bids for each individual piece. Groundbreaking is expected to be in the fall of 2014 or spring of 2015.

Larson told those in attendance that enrollment drives square footage. The state has allowed 78,000 square feet. He then shared that square footage drives the budget. This budget includes everything not just the building itself. Larson told everyone to remember this means items like driveways, furniture and dealing with water issues. The state requires that half a mill be put into the Permanent Improvement Fund for maintenance. For Covington, this is coming from the income tax that was approved for the project and equates to roughly $50,000.

Larson added that the team must design within the confines of the budget.

“Our responsibility is to design a 21st century school. Anything beyond that is great, but that probably needs to be community driven,” Larson said.

In his presentation, Larson listed some “additional considerations” and ways they could be funded. One of these is Locally Funded Initiatives. These would be totally paid for with local dollars and not co-funded with the state. Larson cited securing the connection to the high school, and adding square footage allowing for more classroom space, as LFIs. Alternate bids are items that don’t originally fit into the budget, but that the state would include if the money was available. If the bid comes back under budget, Covington could choose to add these alternate items. Larson said a drive to Route 36, and material upgrades like terrazzo flooring could be alternate bid items.

Larson also spoke on the possibility of privately funded projects, citing an auditorium as an example. A privately funded project is one that a community member or group believes to be highly important to the school so they would take up a capital campaign to raise funds. He added that there has been thought that the district and community may benefit from having a field house similar to the wrestling building. Many of those in attendance at the community meeting agreed.

The superintendent then asked if there is anything missing that the community needs. A discussion regarding baseball diamonds began. The idea was brought up to create a new baseball diamond to be used by little leaguers or possibly for softball.

Larson then wanted thoughts on what to do with the current facilities. Currently, the proposal is to demolish and abate the elementary school and use it for functional space. This is where the suggested baseball diamond would go.

As for the middle school, the overwhelming thought was that it needs to be demolished. Larson mentioned that the building could be maintained and used for office space as well as for county and community uses, and keeping the building would give the district another gym. By not demolishing it, the district would save about $125,000 that could be used for something else; however, it costs $50,000 a year to run the middle school. About $15,000 is spent on maintenance but this does not include long term maintenance such as the roof and boilers.

Larson concluded by discussing the high school renovations. These will begin with a heating, ventilation and cooling system upgrade. Flooring/carpet renovations also will be made as well as restroom renovations. The band room will be renovated and the exterior will be painted as well.