A pipe from the Irving heating system, totally obstructed and recently replaced

A rendering of the exterior of the planned new district office

Many of our recent administrative, board, and staff conversations have centered on facilities and curriculum changes that will allow the district to move forward and provide a better experience for students. This blog shares a few details about three undertakings currently in the planning phase: replacing the Irving heating system and the impacts that will have on the year-round calendar, building a new district office and repurposing the current building as an online learning center, and improving the Laura Ingalls Wilder Elementary playground and outdoor play area.

The Irving heating system is an outdated steam system that was considered for replacement 18 years ago. District staff has done a great job of maintaining it, but this has become increasingly difficult as old piping becomes completely blocked and has to be replaced in sections. We have reached a point where patching things together is no longer practical or effective. Bids will be accepted this winter for a summer replacement of the heating system. This is a large undertaking with a budget estimate of around a million dollars. Shive-Hattery is overseeing the project from a design and management standpoint. The Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) will be used to fund the work. Because the project will take all summer, plans will have to be made for the year-round education program at Irving. Preliminary conversations have been held about alternate sites and calendars although final decisions have not yet been made.

Shive-Hattery is also assisting with the design and construction of a new district office building. There have been many conversations about need improvements through the years, including a formal study done in 2012. At different times there have been discussions about renovating the existing district office and about demolishing it and building a new facility. As the district pursues more online learning opportunities for students (See the fall Messenger for details), a decision has been made to repurpose the existing district office building as an online learning center and build a new district office on the southwest corner of the parking lot at Indianola Stadium.

The new facility will provide a much more favorable first impression of the district for newly enrolling families, more space and some room for future growth, and much more comfortable working conditions for staff. Currently the enrollment office is in a converted closet directly across the hall from two small restrooms. Several employees work in cramped cubicles or converted storage spaces. Meeting and conference space is insufficient. The new district office will increase the footprint from 4400 square feet to 6600 square feet and its location west of the stadium will provide good visibility and allow utilization of the existing parking lot. The building will not obstruct the view of the stadium and will provide a welcoming, modern environment. Once the new building is operational, the existing district office can house EPIC, the high school alternative program, as well as other online learning opportunities as they become available. Some renovations will take place as the needs of students and programs are assessed. The new district office will be up for competitive construction bids this winter with construction through the spring and summer. The estimated budget is approximately 2.2 million dollars. SAVE (statewide penny sales tax) funds will pay for the project. Photos and more details will be shared as the work begins.
Also slated for summer construction is a new playground for Laura Ingalls Wilder Elementary. While the building is a relatively new facility in excellent shape, as the district has renovated other elementary playgrounds, it is time to address Wilder’s. There are several parts to this project. Some site work will be done to improve drainage, fencing is planned to enclose the play area; and a new safe surface play area, new equipment, and additional hard surface play area will be installed. The district is working with OPN Architects and Snyder and Associates to finalize a plan, which will be let for bid this winter and completed over the summer. The work will be paid for with PPEL dollars and is budgeted at $300,000 or less. Teachers and parents will have an opportunity to have input on equipment, color schemes, etc.

The district has exceptional facilities, and these three projects address issues that have been lingering for some time. On the heels of lots of important work that was possible because of a 2013 bond issue, I am glad the district is using existing capital projects funds and not going out to the community for another bond vote that would increase taxes. There are always decisions to be made about how to utilize and prioritize funds. That happens with General Fund dollars that pay for staff and curriculum as well as with SAVE and PPEL dollars that pay for facilities, maintenance, buses, and technology. While these three projects are current priorities, they do not require the district to defer maintenance, delay bus purchases, or reduce technology purchases. If you have questions about the upcoming projects, please contact School Business Official Johna Clancy or Superintendent Art Sathoff. Our office phone is 515-961-9500, and our office is located at 1304 E. 2nd Avenue.