The $4 million question: To renovate the Alta High School or add on to the middle school
The high school facilities study completed at the Alta High School reveals it could take close to $4 million to renovate the 1916 building; adding on to the middle school building to accommodate the high school students could be more.
The report prepared by architects at FEH of Sioux City and recently sent to the school, revealed "darn close to what we were thinking it would," said High School Principal Tom Ryherd who has been spearheading the project.
When Ryherd was named high school principal a little over two years ago he was aware that the board was putting dollars aside from the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) and from sales tax dollars received for future renovation projects. He questioned whether that was the most effective use of funds. With money being tight, he said, it is the responsibility of the board and administrators to make sure dollars are being spent as efficiently as possible.
It began as very informal discussion until November when a committee of community members and faculty was formed. A facility study completed five years ago was looked at and an architect firm was hired to complete another study.
Many, many questions were asked of the administrators regarding the building, photos were snapped and a full-day tour was included, checking out "every nook and cranny" of the 93-year-old structure. Electrical engineers, mechanical engineers and two architects took part in the tour taking notes along the way.
The report has been received and the results are "about what we expected," Ryherd said.
"They said we kept up the facility nicely," Ryherd said, "but there is a lot of extra space that needs to be maintained and taken care of for the number of kids that are here." Ryherd explained that when the building was constructed in 1916, it was designed for kindergarten-12th grade; now as a nine-12 building, there is a great deal of space not necessarily needed.
Another area of concern is the electricity is at or near an overload which could take some major work to remedy.
Included were a number of "what if scenarios" and data "to help in our decision making."
The dollar amount to do any renovation is huge but only a "ballpark figure", Ryherd stressed. "When you start tearing into an older building you never know what you'll find."
Discussion has also strayed to the possibility of adding on to the middle school allowing for all Alta students to be in one building. It is estimated that could cost close to the estimated cost of renovating the current high school building.
The committee has a full plate in front of them.
"We'll continue to talk to architects and making sure we are informing people," said Ryherd. "We're taking this step-by-step, weighing all the options and analyzing the data."
There is also the scenario of what would become of the high school building if an addition were put on at the middle school; getting rid of a structure that size is not an easy thing to do. He emphasized that the gym is not as old as the rest of the building, being added in 1951. The shop area was added onto the high school site in the 1970s.
He stressed that the study won't be put in a drawer somewhere and forgotten about.
"There is a purpose. We're on board with this," he said it is very important to keep the community informed and get their opinions. "The school is here for this community. Our job is to see what's the best way to go and what's the best way to utilize the money. We will take action one way or another hopefully within a couple months." The school board will make the final decision, based on the research completed by the facilities committee, the community and the actual facilities study.
Which ever direction is chosen, the work won't happen over night; working around students will be necessary.
One area that will require immediate attention is the installation of an elevator, widening the doorways, bringing the restrooms up to handicap codes and changing water fountains to accommodate students that will entering high school within the next few years.
There are 16 people serving on the High School Facilities Study Committee. If you are interested in serving, contact Mr. Ryherd at 200-1331.