If all goes as planned, the Vermillion School District’s administration offices will be relocated to a new addition to the Vermillion High School building at about the time classes begin in the fall of 2020.
The Vermillion School Board, which has been exploring the option of moving top administrators out of a downtown administration building that it leases for approximately $4,000 per month, set plans in motion at its Monday meeting that will eventually lead to the construction of a new addition onto Vermillion High School.
The addition will house the offices of Vermillion School Superintendent Damon Alvey, Business Manager Sheila Beermann, and their support staff.
The new structure will also house the school district’s alternative school, which currently is located in a strip mall on Vermillion’s Cherry Street.
“Over the last several months, you’ve heard us talking about the potential for an administrative building being added to the high school,” Superintendent Damon Alvey said, addressing the audience present at the meeting held in the Neuharth Media Center on the University of South Dakota campus and those watching a live broadcast of the meeting on cable television. “Our building committee has been meeting with the architect and getting some renderings of what it might look like and some potential costs of an addition onto the high school.”
The school board was given two options to consider, known simply as “Plan A” and “Plan B.”
Plan A calls for construction of the new addition on the north side of the high school near doors which had originally been designed as the school’s main entrance.
Those doors haven’t been used for several years.
Plan B shows the new addition surrounding the northeast corner of the Thomas H. Craig Center for the Performing Arts.
“The far left side would be current doors that the high school students and guests go through now to enter the high school,” Alvey said, referring to an architect’s drawing of Plan B. “This is a straight viewing and potentially students and visitors of students coming and going would come in through those doors on the left, be forced through the office corridor to be checked in at the office and then exit through an interior office door to go into the high school.”
Both options, he said, are designed to house roughly the same type of offices that are located in the present administrative building located downtown.
“Essentially, they would be the same (as the) administrative center downtown and the alternative school that we have on Cherry Street now would be condensed into this location,” the superintendent said.
Both options also include space for the district’s alternative school currently located on Cherry Street.
“Both of these are approximately 6,000 square feet in footage,” Alvey said. “Both options offer a secured entrance into the buildings where students and guests would be forced through the office to check in and then exit into the building where they go to the office or the classrooms or whatever their business was in the high school.”
The district’s building committee has been reviewing the two options and getting input from the school board’s architect for the last two months.
“Tonight is kind of the go-to time for the district to make a decision if they would like to go forward and get some more serious numbers,” Alvey said. “During the last several months we’ve been able to get some hand sketches and some rough estimates but tonight what we’d like to be able to do is have a motion to proceed for upscale drawings and actual mechanical drawings.”
The superintendent a decision by the board Monday night would allow architects to finalize professional drawings of the addition over the next four weeks.
“That would get us into near the end of May. In early June, we would do mechanical drawings and start to get cost analyses from that,” he said. “July is when we would have to get specific specs for the details that would go out for the bidding process so that contractors in the area would be able to see what they’re bidding on which would take place in August. We would put those bids out to spec at that time where any contractor in the area that wanted to take a shot at winning the proposal would get the details back to the board.
Alvey said the board would then open and bids in September.
“You would decide, one, if the bids were palatable -- something that you felt like you could secure and go forward with and two, you would secure a contractor at that time with hopes that in the October timeline that we would be digging dirt for the foundation and footwork,” Alvey said. “That would take place over the course of the whole winter with us being able to move into the facility in August 2020. There’s about a one-year turn-around starting tonight, with the first step deciding what direction to take, Plan A or Plan B.”
“Plan B is the better of the two options, and this is now paraphrasing my thinking on this,” said Doug Peterson, a member of the school board and the district’s building committee. “Both options offer a secure entrance after the school day begins and ends. Option B preserves that main entrance in the same place. With Option A, the side building, you can get there after the doors are secured … you now have to go around the building and you enter from a far wing whereas Option B really keeps the entrance in the same location.”
He noted that Option B “confines the public aspects of the school district, including the theatre and the commons, all in one area. That was our thinking on that. It creates a little bit nicer aesthetic from the parking lot of what we think of as the front of the building with the additions over the past 25 years, so that is our recommendation.
They’re quite comparable in cost and construction time, and they’re both right around the same square footage,” Peterson said.
School Board President Shannon Fairholm noted that going with Option B does not address what the original front of the building currently looks like.
“It doesn’t help enhance it at all, not that Option A enhances it at all to begin with,” she added.
Fairholm said the school architect has suggested that some things can be done at a relatively low cost to improve the exterior view of the original front entrance.
“For instance, we can put awnings up there or we can have facades that create an illusion, that don’t actually serve a purpose but it would help make it look better and that, with some plantings, could really make that space look a lot better out front,” she said. “The hope would be to maybe do that at the same time that this (the new construction) is being done so that everything looks nice and pretty by the time it’s done. He (the school architect) is working on information for us as far as facades and canopies and plantings and things like that.”
“The motion tonight moves us to the next phase. It doesn’t commit us to building it until we can see the full costs,” Peterson said. “We’ve got pretty good estimates but we need those next level of drawings to make that decision in the process.”
School Board member Tim Schwasinger said he originally had preferred Plan A, the addition on the north side of the high school.
“I was sold on A to begin with and as we talked about it, B, for the longer term, good seems to be the way to go,” he said.
The board ultimately approved a motion to pursue Plan B and to move forward with more formal drawings, details and costs in order to keep this process moving forward.