The Perry School Board voted Thursday to move ahead with a $6.5 million project to double the size of the Perry High School Industrial Technology Department and add a wrestling room on the north side of the 18th Street campus.
Voters in the Perry Community School District will decide in a Feb. 5 bond referendum whether to approve financing for the expansion and remodeling plans. Tax-averse voters will be pleased to learn that approval of the bond sales will result in lower taxes.
The school district’s property tax levy for debt service now stands at $2.10 per $1,000 of assessed value. With old debt scheduled to roll off the district’s books in June 2019, the debt-service levy will drop to $1.35 per $1,000 even with the $6.5 million of new debt incurred to build the PHS additions.
The need for new and enlarged facilities motivated the school board’s approval of the preliminary floor plans and space programming presented at Thursday’s special meeting by representatives from Minneapolis-based Unesco Inc.
“We’ve listened to the school,” Unesco Inc. Senior Business Consultant Brian Crawford told the board, “and heard what you would like to have included — not the wants, the needs — and we’ve programmed spaces to meet those needs.”
The Unesco plan differs from the proposal presented to the board in October by West Des Moines-based SVPA Architects in orienting the additions northward instead of eastward. Month-long consultations between the board and Unesco narrowed the design options from eight to five and then to the two plans presented Thursday.
The PHS Industrial Technology Department — once known as shop classes and now sometimes called industrial arts or career and technical education (CTE) — would see construction of a new 7,280-square-foot addition and the complete remodeling of the current 6,400-square-foot facility.
The Industrial Tech Department offers instruction in woodworking, metalworking and automotive technology. The shop space was built more than 50 years ago, and age and overcrowding now present safety risks to students and staff.
The addition, extending northward from the current Industrial Tech facility, will house the automotive classes and include eight auto bays, with four lifts and four stalls. The refurbished area — “It’ll look like brand new on the inside,” Crawford said — will house the wood and metals classes and include a new dust-collection system and ventilation system for exhaust gases.
“These are some of the most economical options that we could identify to meet the needs that was asked of us to solve,” Crawford said.
The 8,550-square-foot multipurpose room will be used primarily as a wrestling room, with three full-size wrestling mats specified in the preliminary design, but it could also serve for PE classes, cheerleader practice and the like, Crawford said. The area has also been programmed for office space, locker space and general storage.
“One thing you’ve got to keep in mind with these plans in front of us now, they are not set in stone,” said PCSD Board President Kyle Baxter. “There might be two foot added here or 10 foot taken away there. Stuff will be manipulated so that we make sure that at the end of the day we’re building the right project.”
Unesco architect Kevin Thueringer also emphasized the provisional status of the plans.
“We’ve done the programming and schematic design but haven’t gotten into the detailed design phase,” Thueringer said. “There’s lots of opportunities. This is kind of a blank canvas.”
The board asked numerous specific questions during the 90-minute meeting, and the discussion ranged from sprinkler systems in the middle school to parking and traffic adjustments around the school to the external appearance of the new additions.
“If we have the opportunity to move ahead with this and get into the design phase on it, we’ll present you guys options on different ways we can have it look,” Thueringer said. “I’ll bring in three or four different concepts with colors, materials, building heights, entryways. That way you guys can be fully involved in those design decisions in which direction we move ahead.”
PCSD Board Secretary and Business Manager Kent Bultman noted the $6.5 million bond issue would cover the construction costs and leave about $532,000 remaining for change orders and new equipment for the additions.
“The good thing about these plans is we have some wiggle room as far as the dollars,” said PCSD Superintendent Clark Wicks. “The petition is going to say $6.5 million, so there’s some room to wiggle with.”
Proponents of the bond measure need to collect 27 signatures on a petition in order to bring the question before district voters. The deadline for submitting the petition to the Dallas County Auditor’s office is Dec. 21. Voters will see the following language on the referendum ballot:
Shall the Board of Directors of the Perry Community School District in the Counties of Boone, Dallas, and Greene, State of Iowa, be authorized to contract indebtedness and issue General Obligation Bonds in an amount not to exceed $6,500,000 to provide funds to construct, build, improve, furnish, and equip a Career and Technical Education addition to the existing High School/Middle School facility, including related remodeling; and to construct, build, furnish, and equip a Wrestling/Multipurpose Room addition to the existing High School/Middle School facility, including related support spaces and remodeling; and to improve the site?
A Vote Yes committee, headed by longtime PHS Industrial Technology instructor Dale Schumacher and Paula Schnittjer Nelson, has organized itself and is advocating approval of the bond referendum.
Schumacher started teaching at PHS in 1965, the same year the current Industrial Tech Department was opened. He said safety is the chief selling point for refurbishing the 53-year-old facility.
“I can see it partially from a safety point of view,” Schumacher said. “Just look at how much is going on at that facility. That building was moved into in 1965, and an awful lot of equipment has been added in that time. Plus the class sizes are bigger. They’re averaging 20 to 22 students now, while when I was out there they were at 12 to 16. So they’re packed in there tight, and I’ve got some safety concerns.”
Under Schumacher’s leadership, capably succeeded by Darin Steva and now Curt Cornelius, Perry High’s Industrial Tech Department built a tradition of producing award-winning technologists. As recently as 2014, the department produced two national winners in SkillsUSA competition in spite of PHS’s aging physical plant.
“I think you need to update to be able to continue to have that kind of success,” Schumacher said. “It’s a program that’s needed here in town, and it needs some updating because it hasn’t been changed in over 50 years.”
The Vote Yes committee meets Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. in the Brady Library at PHS. School district residents are welcome to attend the public meetings.