By Barbie Porter
Several years ago the Frazee-Vergas School District purchased 10 acres of vacant land that abutted the property of the elementary school. Much discussion was had about moving the football and track complex to that land.
“We, over time, have come to the understanding, listening to the people, that the best location for our track/football complex is in its current area,” said Frazee-Vergas Superintendent Terry Karger. “We heard over and over, ‘We like where it is at; we like how it fits in our campus; we like it there.”
The topic came up during a special work session of the Frazee-Vergas School Board on Monday, March 1. Work sessions give board members an opportunity to meet, have only discussion and without the pressure or concern of decision making. The recent work session was focused on long-term planning for the district facilities.
One major talking point for some time has been the track and football complex. The five lane track expired in 2016, making the facility non-competitive at the high school league level. Karger noted the foundation “is gone.” Those that have walked on it will see deep cracks developing. The district has spent money to patch the surface for several years.
Karger said it is not just the track in need of repair, the location of the long jump and pole vault competition has put up red flags of safety concerns. The football field is not level, the field lights are outdated and the scoreboard took a tumble recently as well.
Amenities like the concession stand, which doubles as a bathroom facility, needs work and the complex is not fully accessible to some with disabilities.
The board discussed turning the track at the current location, as that would be the only option to allow for eight running lanes to be competitive. Shifting the track would force one of the baseball diamonds to be relocated.
Funding for a new track could be provided by a lease levy option. Karger explained because the physical education classes use the track, football field and baseball diamond, those costs could be covered.
The cost for the lights, press box and concessions would not be covered, he noted. The funding options for those elements would be through fundraising or grant opportunities.
Karger said the score board “had a tough fall,” but the district was able to patch it back together to make due. Karger has learned long-term facility maintenance money can be used to purchase a new scoreboard, as long as it meets requirements, such as being installed in the same location. The location has been an issue as it is four-feet out of the end zone on the football field.
“We could put in two new poles, and move the thing if we relocate track,” Karger said. “The scoreboard would not be portable by any means, but it would be moveable.”
Shifting the track would also allow for additional parking on the northwest side of the high school building, reducing the use of the city-owned lot across State Highway 87.
Board member Tyler Trieglaff added that to his recollection there is a street or alley built into the city-owned parking lot as well. Also, he said the city has discussed moving the skating rink to the park behind the parking lot.
If the new parking area were to ever be built, the early concept has access off North River Drive.
With the redesign, Karger said consideration was given for an addition of a gym or auditorium. Discussion was had about a potential addition when the board asked for a building referendum. The addition is not in the immediate future. Karger said if the time came, the discussed updates to the track complex would compliment such an addition.
The elementary school parking lot was also discussed. The district put much thought into remodeling that space while going out for a referendum. The plan has an additional parking space at the front of the school, in the area that is now grass. The smaller lot would provide a pick-up and drop off zone for parents as well as addition parking pads. The larger parking lot, which is currently in place, would be redesigned to include a bus loading zone. Now, the busses line up down Hickory Avenue.
The plan is to also provide a separate parking area for those attending Early Childhood Family Education classes.
Funding options outside a referendum for the parking lots would be an abatement levy. A levy only needs to be board approved, there would be an impact to taxpayers and the funds could only be used for the designated project, Karger explained.
The board also went on a walking tour to review recent updates to the schools afforded by a $3.47 referendum the voters approved a few years back.
The referendum allowed the district to install a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system throughout the elementary building. Doors, windows and faux walls in the oldest section (from 1965) were replaced as were ceiling, flooring and light fixtures.
“When you go through there it is a brand new classroom all the way around,” Karger said.
Low interest rate and below expected bids afforded additional updates, including a secured entrance in the elementary. A classroom was converted into the main office area, and the former office space was used to create a larger art room space. The teacher at the elementary, Linda Beilke, provides art classes to grades K-6. The new art room also provides access to the courtyard.
Karger said other updates that were affordable because of the low cost of the major renovation project included installing soundproofing in the band room, updating lockers, and ordering new doors for the cafeteria.
He informed the board the ceiling replacement in the school was also done in the kitchen. The kitchen vents and suppression system was grand fathered in. But, when renovations took place the deficiencies needed to be brought up to state code. He explained the state afforded the district a year to come into compliance and the plan is to have the work done in the coming summer months.
Karger added long-term facility maintenance funds were also used to update locker rooms and paint building exterior.
Some funds provided to assist in correcting COVID-19 related concerns were used for redesigning a space for robotics.