School board approves $24.6 million expansion & remodel project

By: Eric Sandbulte, The Brookings Register

The Brookings School Board this week approved spending up to $24.6 million for expansion and remodeling at Mickelson Middle School and later granted Brookings School District Superintendent Klint Willert the authority to seek bids for that project.

The construction will help the district deal with enrollment growth and will add 12 new classrooms, a new special education classroom, an administrative addition to control the main entry to the school, a wellness addition, accessibility upgrades and more.

As presented to the school board by ATS&R architects Dave Maroney and Eric Anderson on Monday, the project would cost an estimated total of $23.48 million. Of that, $20.47 million would be for the additions and renovations, and $3.01 million would go toward deferred maintenance.

It’ll be paid for with capital outlay certificates, with funds from the district’s capital outlay budget, and will not require a bond issue. But, up to $20 million in proposed renovation work at Medary and Hillcrest Elementary schools would require a bond issue.

The reason that the board approved spending up to $24.6 million for MMS rather than the estimated $23.48 million is because of concerns regarding bidding outcomes.

Earlier in talks regarding the plan, $24.6 million had been the estimated project cost, but that was lowered to $23.48 million after further conversations and scaling back different aspects of the project.

As school board member Steve Bayer said, there were worries that bids could come in higher than expected.

“If we lower that number and those bids come in higher, we’ve put ourselves in a position where the entire schedule is (at risk),” Bayer said, adding, “I’d be more comfortable having a little room.”

And that schedule is a tight one, as Maroney explained. On July 18, they’d begin advertising the bids, issue documents Aug. 1, and receive bids on Aug. 16. Then, they’d award bids Aug. 20, with construction starting on Sept. 4 with the main pick up and drop off area to be reconfigured Oct. 9. Anticipated completion is the fall of 2020.

“The absolute first thing we’re going to do besides start the addition on the south side and create a staging area which takes out a lot of that parking, we really need to get a gravel lot established on the north side,” Maroney said.

That’s because not only will the middle school building itself be worked on, but so will the parking lot, with plans for a second one to be built on the north side of the building, and it would replace the temporary gravel lot Maroney described.

This northern lot would become the main pick up and drop off area for parents. It’d have three lanes for entering and exiting: one for traffic pulling into the parking lot, one for cars exiting the lot and making a left turn on 17th Avenue, and the other for cars exiting and making a right turn onto 17th Avenue.

So, although the main parking lot south of the school will be slightly smaller to accommodate the southern addition of the school, the northern parking lot will increase the number of parking spaces enough to handle the increased parking needs.

Right now, there are 184 parking spaces at the school, and after the work on the existing lot and the addition of the second one, there’d be 221 total.

One aspect of the project that initially worried some members of the school board was that space in the cafeteria and commons was taken away so that the music rooms could be expanded. But when asked if there’d be enough room for an increased number of students to eat there, the architects were confident in the plan.

The plan calls for elevating the dining area so that it’s level with the rest of the floor. By doing this, it’ll make more of the existing area usable. They said there will be 350 seats in the cafeteria, with a variety of seating options available, including round tables and linear tables.

The school board also asked Mickelson Middle School administrators if this is a plan they’d recommend to them.

“I’ve been looking at numbers – in my sleep, I think – as far as looking at projections and trying to figure out where we’re at, not having to come back and rebuild five years down the road. With this plan, I do not think that that will have to take place,” MMS Principal Tim Steffensen said. “I think this format and this plan sets us up for the future at the middle school and it’s a plan I would endorse and like to move forward with.”

Contact Eric Sandbulte at esandbulte@brookingsregister.com.

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