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Final bid package consideration for new Mitchell High School expected in November

Aslesen urges board to consider main gym, locker room as part of base bid

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The Mitchell Board of Education hears public commentary Monday night, Sept. 12, 2022.
Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — The Mitchell Board of Education got an update on the Mitchell High School building project, learning that the final bid package should be at the next meeting of the board in November.

The update came at the Monday, Sept. 12 meeting of the Mitchell Board of Education at L.B. Williams Elementary School.

Joe Graves, superintendent for the Mitchell School District, presented the board with the construction timeline and price figures for the project. As it stands now, the board would consider approval of the final bid package at its meeting in November. Later that month, bids on the project would be opened.

In late December 2022 or early January 2023, the board is expected to approve successful bidders. Should everything proceed as scheduled, construction would begin in spring 2023, and a substantial portion of the project would be completed by the beginning or the start of the second semester of the 2024-25 school year.

The board took no official action on the matter, but Terry Aselsen, a member of the board, iterated his concerns about moving forward with phase 1 of the project without incorporating at least the main gymnasium and a locker room as part of it.

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“I can’t see us moving forward unless we do the main gym and a locker room. I think that’s the worst part of the current high school,” Aslesen said.

The district had intended to complete the full scope of the project in one phase, but price increases by way of inflation in the construction industry brought in the initial estimates for the full project at about $20 million over budget. School officials have since considered doing the classroom wings along with as much of the athletics portion of the work as the budget allows and then completing more work in a second phase in subsequent years.

There are also other options, including seeking alternative methods of funding should the district want to pursue more work in the first phase.

“The board could also consider additional funding sources … in order to complete all of phase 2 or as much of it as possible,” Graves wrote in his update. Those additional funding sources could include the sale of additional capital outlay bonds, the passage of a bond issue or seeking private donations.

As it currently stands, the base bid, which includes the classroom wings of the proposed high school building but not the athletics section, comes in at approximately $41,673,000. After the base bid, add-on items include, but are not limited to, the main gym without finishes at $4,485,000, the areas outside the gym spaces at $7,147,000, the auxiliary gym at $1,849,000, the gymnastics/cheer area at $1,286,000, the main gym finishes at $1,182,000 and the auxiliary gym finishes at $666,000, the gymnastics/cheer finishes at $151,000.

The estimated full tally for the project, which includes all options, would come in at $59,797,000.

“Again those are estimates, but they’re based on actual pricing from Puetz Design, and they’re trying to give us as close to actual numbers as possible at this point,” Graves said.

More discussion on what could be included in phase 1 is likely to take place at the October and November meetings of the board.

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Meeting start times, public input policy changes

The board also approved the first reading of changes to a pair of board meeting policies.

One change involved the public commentary portion of the meeting. The board considered a proposal that would have limited the total length of public commentary to 30 minutes unless that was extended by the board president or majority vote of the board.

After some discussion, including comments from the public itself, the board instead decided to limit each individual speaker at a meeting to no more than 3 minutes of commentary time. That could also be increased by the board should it see fit to do so. The board removed the specification of a 30 minute total time limit altogether.

The current policy makes no mention of a time limit on the total length of public commentary, but did limit the time for each individual comment to 5 minutes, with subsequent members of the public speaking on the same subject being limited to 2 minutes. That version will be overwritten by the change approved at the Monday evening.

The change may motivate the board to move the public commentary portion to earlier in the meeting, instead of at the end where it traditionally has resided on the agenda. That is not strictly a matter of policy, however, and can be changed anytime at the discretion of the board.

The other policy change approved on first reading was moving the start time of the meeting from 5 p.m., as is current practice, to 5:30 p.m.

Members of the board were generally on board with the change, and several members of the public spoke in favor of changing to a 5:30 p.m. start time. They also spoke against a 30-minute time limit and cautioned against too many limitations in general, citing it as hindering public input and the fact that public input at meetings rarely exceeds 30 minutes total.

“I do have a problem with a 30-minute time frame. I think you’re limiting public input by doing so,” said Dwight Stadler, who was in attendance at the meeting. “A 30-minute time limit, I think, leans toward censorship more than public input.”

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Shawn Ruml, a member of the board, said he was in favor of moving the public commentary portion to the beginning of meetings as well as the new 5:30 p.m. start time.

“When we were at the school board convention in Sioux Falls, it is one of the things that came up, that most schools did this, and I thought that makes more sense, which was having the public commentary at the beginning. So if someone wants to come and talk, they can talk at the beginning before we actually are going into the stuff instead of in the middle of it. And they don’t have to wait until after executive sessions,” Ruml said. “I think it’s a good idea, but in order to do it, we need to move it to 5:30 so that people who aren’t here at 5:01 p.m. aren’t left out, so I think they kind of go hand in hand together.”

The board approved the changes by unanimous vote. The second reading of the changes to both policies will take place at the October meeting of the board. If approved at that stage, the will go into effect at the November meeting.

Personnel

The board approved the following personnel moves:

  • The new classified hires of Sierra Bunker, food service at Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary, $15.25 per hour, 5.5 hours daily, effective Aug. 15; Kristi Moody, paraeducator at L.B. Williams Elementary, $13.75 per hour, 7 hours daily, effective Aug. 17; Samuel Smith, paraeducator at L.B. Williams Elementary, $15 per hour, 7 hours daily, effective Sept. 6; Amanda Klein, kitchen manager at Mitchell High School, $17 per hour, 8 hours daily, effective Sept. 7 and Debra Olson, paraeducator at Mitchell Middle School, $13.75 per hour, 7 hours daily, effective Sept. 6.
  • The new certified hires of Chaydon Metzger, 7th grade head volleyball, $1,850; Ryan Zilla, assistant boys soccer, $1,673; Gracie Kattner, 8th grade assistant volleyball, $1,573 and Jeff Meyerink, assistant boys golf, $2,236. All certified hires are effective for the 2022-23 school year.
  • The transfer of Randi Zimmerman, head cook at Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary to Gertie Belle Rogers kitchen manager, $17 per hour, 8 hours daily, effective 2022-23 school year.
  • A change in hours for Blair Overweg, paraeducator at L.B. Williams Elementary, 7 hours daily to 7.25 hours daily and Jennifer Malatare, paraeducator at Mitchell High School, 7 hours daily to 7.25 hours daily. Changes in hours are effective Aug. 17.
  • The sixth class assignments for Kaitlyn Huska, one sixth class assignment; Steve Morgan, one sixth class assignment; Kent Vanoverschelde, one sixth class assignment; Melisa Vatter-Miller, one sixth class assignment; Denise Hoffman, two sixth class assignments; Nancy Leach, two sixth class assignments; Bruce Mastel, two sixth class assignments; Mercia Schroeder, two sixth class assignments; Christina Siemsen, two sixth class assignments; Curtis Smith, two sixth class assignments; Gretchen Smith, two sixth class assignments; Kristina Starr, two sixth class assignments and Penny Weisz, two sixth class assignments. All assignments are for the 2022-23 school year.
  • The resignations of Lori Renken, paraeducator at Mitchell Middle School, effective Aug. 22; Tierra Nightpipe, paraeducator at Mitchell High School, effective Sept. 9 and Esther Witte, junior varsity girls basketball coach, effective for the 2022-23 school year.
  • The Mitchell Technical College hires of Roxanne Hunt, fall 2022 registered nursing (RN) clinical adjunct instructor, $7,350; Anne Kelly, fall 2022 psychology 101 adjunct instructor, $2,250; Angela Langstaff, fall 2022 radiation therapy physics adjunct instructor, $3,000; Janel Nicolas, fall 2022 online business adjunct instructor, $4,500; Kristina Tebay, registered nursing (RN) instructor, $63,951.43 (200-day contract prorated to 189 days), effective Aug. 30; Jesse Belschner, fall 2022 radiation therapy physics adjunct instructor, $1,500 and Terrance Harms, fall 2022 radiation therapy physics adjunct instructor. All hires are effective Aug. 22 unless otherwise noted.

Other business

Also at the meeting, the board:

  • Approved K-12 district goals for the 2022-23 school year.
  • Moved the Oct. 10 meeting of the board to Oct. 11.
  • Rejected a bid from Schoenfelder Construction to complete work on one practice field and two field event location at the district track complex. The bid was in the amount of $898,000.
  • Heard board member reports.
  • Heard public commentary.

The next meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11 at Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary School.

Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at ekaufman@mitchellrepublic.com.
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