The Decorah School Board toured West Side School to review the building's condition and its certification status prior to the regularly scheduled meeting Monday.
The building is a well-maintained facility used as an early childhood center for preschool, transitional and "Head Start" programs for 3-5 year olds. These programs also serve many special-needs students. Although the building is part of the Board's long-term plans for the District, there are numerous issues needing to be dealt with to not only boost the facility's certification status but allow it to remain in operation.
According to Superintendent Mike Haluska, an update to the air-conditioning system would require a significant electrical upgrade. The insufficient electrical system prevents the use of air-conditioning throughout most of the facility. In addition, the building's heat exchange, which is housed in the basement, is powered by a 1950's boiler system that inadequately heats a majority of the building, particularly the classrooms.
The update in the electrical system would cost roughly $80,000 and could be addressed next summer, but this would not solve air-exchange issues. The heating/cooling systems would also need to be inspected by the state fire marshal.
"The West Side building has more issues with air-quality than any other building in our District," said Haluska. "There are no regulations that exist right now with air-quality, they're all currently voluntary, but it wouldn't surprise me if it became an issue down the line."
According to Elementary Principal Rick Varney, the gymnasium doubles as a cafeteria within an especially small area alongside the kitchen. This area also has access/exit stairs, which the staff and Board deemed inappropriate and potentially hazardous for the specific age level of students the building serves.
The space requirements of students per classroom are also being enforced by state regulations. According to Varney, the limitation for 4 year olds is 20 per classroom.
"The weekend before school started, we had teachers at West Side who had to switch classrooms so we could meet the mandated square-foot requirements for students," said Varney.
Varney and Haluska also acknowledged most of the classrooms do not possess a bathroom facility, which creates problematic circumstances for students who are not toilet-trained.
Although the building is technically certified and meets the bare minimum state standards, the Board emphasized its desire to make the building not only adequate for student and faculty, but to make its evaluative criteria rate higher, which would require major work and remodeling.
"If there's going to be any type of remodeling occurring, there will also be some asbestos issues to contend with as well," said Haluska.
The Board will continue its discussions on the West Side facility along with the future of the John Cline Elementary building.