It's time for the public to weigh in on the future of the Decorah School District's elementary facilities.

At Monday's meeting of the Decorah School Board, the Board discussed putting together an elementary facilities focus group and hosting some town-hall meetings.

"The question revolves around when we begin to engage the public regarding how to proceed in gathering input on the future of our West Side/John Cline facilities," said Superintendent Mike Haluska.

In May, Nick Hildebrandt of StruXtures Architects, Waterloo, reviewed with the Board a number of options ranging from small remodels of both facilities to a brand new, combined PK-2 facility.

Hildebrandt provided the Board with a 44-page report, which encompassed a variety of planning considerations, including the educational process, curriculum, facility, operations, longevity, sustainability, future operations and avoiding unnecessary disruption of the educational process.

Hildebrandt's report explained in formulating possible plans, his firm considered information gathered from Shareholders meetings, visual reviews and walk-throughs of the facilities with District administrators and representatives of KCL Engineering of West Des Moines.

The full report is available on the District's website: decorah.k12.ia.us.



Discussion

Board Vice President Melanie Tietz said rather than engaging the public in an open-ended discussion, she thinks they should be educated about StruXtures recommendations.

"The report is comprehensive in how it addresses our options. We want to educate the public about what those (options) are and have the public tell us which direction we should go," said Tietz.

Haluska said he anticipates in addition to town-hall meetings, he will give presentations to groups like the Decorah Rotary and Lions clubs.

"Anyone who wants to listen to us," he said.

Haluska said the "$64,000 question is 'When do we start'?"

Board President Ron Fadness responded, "Sooner rather than later."

The Shareholders group is scheduled to tour John Cline and West Side schools Nov. 25, with the intention of presenting their findings to the Board at either the December or January Board meetings.

Haluska suggested scheduling a town-hall meeting at some point in the future and handling it like a focus-group meeting, for which the District would formulate a number of questions.

"Typically, we like to do this with no school administration or Board members there, so people are willing to speak their minds," said Haluska, adding the intent of such meetings would be to establish goals for moving forward.

"If we get goals from the community and they align with the District's mission and the Shareholder's vision, then we can create solutions that meet these ... The last question we may add would be 'Do you see any issue with trying to pass a bond issue to bring the PK-2 buildings up to level with the rest of the buildings in the District?'" he said.



Additional option

Board Member John Hjelle pointed out an additional item to factor into the facilities issue is the recent discussion about the future of North Winneshiek School and the fact it may be looking at additional whole-grade sharing or consolidation with Decorah.

The Decorah Board plans to tour the North Winneshiek School in the near future.

In a related matter, the Board appointed Tietz and Fadness to the long-term planning committee with North Winneshiek.