Lindbergh panel eyes short-term options for Sperreng Middle space concerns

School district officials formulating RFP for modular buildings

By MIKE ANTHONY

The Lindbergh Board of Education voted unanimously last week to authorize a committee to investigate short-term solutions to provide immediate relief for space concerns at Sperreng Middle School.

The committee will be comprised of Executive Director of Planning and Development Karl Guyer, Chief Financial Officer Pat Lanane, Board of Education Vice President Vic Lenz, Board of Education member David Peek, Sperreng Middle School Principal Jennifer Tiller, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Nancy Rathjen and two teachers.

During the May 13 Board of Education meeting, Rathjen said, “As we continue to investigate long-term solutions, right now we are asking the board to authorize administration to investigate a short-term solution to provide relief for space concerns at Sperreng for next year …”

Before the vote was taken, board member Mark Rudoff said, “… Short term implies to me this is not an intention for purchase of any property, but rather a lease as far as a revocable-type arrangement. Is that correct?”

Rathjen replied, “That’s right. We’re looking for something that would run three to four years, tops.”

Board Vice President Vic Lenz said, “With the goal being that then we’d come to a permanent solution and this would end.”

Rathjen said, “Absolutely it would end …”

The Board of Education voted unanimously in October to establish a Demographic Task Force comprised of parents, residents and staff members to recommend long-term options to address space concerns at Sperreng, which has an enrollment of 1,321 pupils while the ideal size for a middle school serving grades six through eight is 600 to 800 pupils.

The 53-member Demographic Task Force conducted two public forums in March at which six options were presented to address those space concerns along with projected costs from Guyer.

At the March 19 forum, Superintendent Jim Sandfort noted that a bond issue would be needed to fund whichever option is selected by the board.

In April, the Demographic Task Force presented the six options to the Board of Education. Since then, board members have whittled down a future no-tax-rate-increase bond issue to three choices:

• Converting Sperreng and Truman Elementary School to fifth- through eighth-grade middle schools, adding onto Crestwood and Long elementary schools, converting Concord School to an elementary school and purchasing a site to relocate the district’s early childhood education, or ECE, program from Concord School. The cost of that option, not including the cost of purchasing a site for the early childhood program, would be roughly $12.5 million.

• Converting Sperreng and Truman to fifth- through eighth-grade middle schools and building a new elementary school. This package would cost $17.5 million to $20 million.

• Retaining Sperreng as a sixth- through eighth-grade middle school, converting Truman to a sixth- through eighth-grade middle school, adding onto Crestwood and Long elementary schools, converting Concord School to an elementary school and purchasing a site to relocate the district’s ECE program from Concord School. The cost of that option, not including the cost of purchasing a site for the ECE program, would be roughly $13.8 million.

One short-term solution being considered to ease the space situation at Sperreng is leasing modular buildings, or trailers, according to Lanane. The district is in the process of issuing a request for proposals for modular buildings that would house at least six classrooms.

Of the request for modular buildings, he said, “… That’s a nice term I guess for what some people call trailers, but they’re really more — some of the proposals will be more … That’s why we’re asking for proposals. Tell us what you know from your experiences has worked the best. What we’ve said to them is we need at least six classroom spaces. That’s the bare-bones request … Basically, we’re looking for six classrooms of space in another facility.

“Sometimes they’ll put these together and like you’ll have six or eight in one building. So it isn’t necessarily three double-classroom trailers … There are other ways to configure it that actually might be better and what we’ve asked them to do is give us your — here’s what we need, but you tell us what you could bring to the table.”

The district will not purchase the modular buildings, Lanane emphasized.

“Our commitment is not to keep these as permanent pieces of the school district,” he said. “Those are probably the two key concepts in terms of this. We want to get something in here that is temporary, but also high quality. But we do not intend to keep these permanently. So we’re going to allow different vendors to give us their best proposal: ‘Here’s what I can do.’ Maybe it will be three brand-new trailers dropped and there we go. The cost will be X. Or someone might say: ‘You know, I’ve got one that’s 2 years old that’s just coming off a lease.’ We’d probably require them to put new carpet in, bring them right back up to where they were. But maybe there’s a way to get that at a lesser price and maybe even get more space …

“If they happen to have one that has eight in it versus six classrooms, but they’re willing to give us that at a better price, well, we’re going to look at that. So it’s kind of like we’re keeping our options open and we know what the minimum is.

“We need six classrooms, but we think by doing a proposal and just sending one to all the companies that do these modular buildings that we’re going to be better off than to say: ‘Give us this’ because we’re learning a lot about these modular buildings. But I think that by having people in the business propose what they might be able to do for us, I think we might actually get the best proposal that way …,” he said.

Another short-term solution under consideration is converting what is currently a storage area into space for small-group instruction, Lanane said.

“It’s not ideal. It has no windows … That room is not air conditioned or heated right now, so we’ve got to run the duct in there to get that done … It’s kind of a very good indicator of what’s going on in that building. We are out of space and we’re now taking storage areas that are not even treated for heating or air conditioning and having to use them for small-group instruction …,” he said.

The fact that consideration is being given to converting a storage area into instructional space indicates how dire the situation is, Lanane said.

“We’re literally overflowing at that building,” he said.