MASON CITY — Students, parents and others got a chance Monday evening to walk through the new temporary classrooms where John Adams Middle School eighth-graders will be educated this year. Meanwhile, the Mason City School Board released a letter explaining why they elected to go with portable classrooms for eighth graders, at a cost of about $1 million. Photo gallery included.| MASON CITY — Students, parents and others got a chance Monday evening to walk through the new temporary classrooms where John Adams Middle School eighth-graders will be educated this year.
Clean, cool and a lot more roomy than expected were some of the assessments.
The 16 temporary classrooms are just south of Mohawk Stadium and east of Mason City High School. The middle school is undergoing a major renovation. Seventh-graders will attend classes this year at the former Madison Elementary School.
Classes begin Wednesday for Mason City middle school students.
Meanwhile, the Mason City School Board released the following letter, outlining why they choose to use portable classrooms for students over the next couple of school years, at a cost of about $1 million.
Read the letter:
As construction progresses in the Mason City Community School District, members of the Board of Education and the staff at MCCSD would like to provide regular updates to the community. We would like to address one question in particular that has been asked in the community.
As you have driven past the High School campus this summer, you have seen the progress with the construction of an Annex near Mohawk Stadium. Many people have asked why the Board of Education authorized spending $1 million on a temporary building. Why not utilize Washington Elementary School?
There were several points of consideration brought to the Board of Education before a decision could be made about how to continue educating our students with the least amount of disruption during a large, much-needed construction update that would ultimately provide better facilities for learning.
Keeping students in the JAMS building was absolutely not feasible or possible with the large scope of the construction on that site. It was cheaper in the long run to vacate the building entirely for construction. The cost was much cheaper to do this compared with doing this project in chunks.
Seventh grade students will attend school this year in the building formerly known as Madison Elementary School. We are now calling this JAMS 7. This building has proven to be adequate to meet the needs of all 7th grade students and their teachers with minimal changes to the building.
Eighth grade students will be housed in the new Annex, which we are calling JAMS 8. Before that decision was made, the Board of Education and the staff at MCCSD had to consider many points, including:
– Size of buildings (must accommodate 300 to 600 middle school students)
– Number of classrooms needed (for one grade only: 16+ music, band, industrial technology, careers, health, PE exploratory courses shared between 7 and 8)
– Size of Gymnasium/Lunch room spaces Spaces for special education classroom needs
– The space needs to be usable for two years to help with the high school second story renovation project
– It must offer staff traveling time and effective and efficient transportation of students for school and activities Limited funding availability
It was determined that the Washington building, although in great shape, would not be a viable choice for the reasons outlined above. Unfortunately, it was just too small, did not have enough classrooms, did not have a large enough cafeteria, did not have enough space to house exploratory classes and would not be able to be used for the high school phase of renovation because it was not on the same campus. It also had limited parking.
The Board of Education and staff also had to think forward to the next phase of this construction project, when the high school two-story area would be renovated and how to accommodate all of the students on that campus. The scope and pace of these projects is on a very tight timeline because of our ability to get Grants, Qualified School Construction Bonds and refinancing for our revenue bonds. The dollars that the district received for facilities cannot be spent on teachers/instruction or other support staff/materials. It is strictly for infrastructure. The annex is essential for the campus to have close proximity to move high school teachers into those classrooms, which will allow high school students to have access to their teachers on site.
This, however, still will not provide for all of the classroom needs, because there are about 50 classrooms within the existing two-story space now. Once JAMS is finished and 7-8th grade students move back into their building ñnow as 8th and 9th graders, the annex will still be needed as the next phase of the project continues: renovating the second story, interior classrooms at MCHS. In order to renovate that section of the building, those 50 classrooms will need to be vacated to the annex.
We will still have to re-designate/re-allocate some existing spaces inside the high school for classrooms. The Board determined that 16 classrooms in an ANNEX was the limit on the funds that they would expend during these projects. They wanted the funds to go into the projects for the existing buildings.
Classrooms today are not the same as they were 40 years ago. Today, many students enrolled in special education are integrated into regular classrooms while other students with significant medical, academic or social/emotional needs may require small self-contained learning environments. These students require special types of classrooms. Not everyone can sit in a desk in rows like classrooms of the past. Today, ALL children are included in our public education and we are required to provide for all children’s learning needs. It’s the law.
As a point of interest ñ when high schools have been renovated in other districts across the state annex use is common and necessary, use of swing buildings (like we are using Madison) is common as well. We wish that Washington would have been a viable swing school but it was not. Had we been renovating an elementary building, it might have worked.
The Board did discuss the possibility of constructing a “Morton-type” building on the campus to use for classroom spaces and then converting to a second gym after renovation. However, this option would not have provided conducive nor fulfilled the number of classrooms needed.
The Board also investigated the options of building new facilities in the same location or on new ground. Those options also were not feasible.
The Board has been extremely mindful of the financial aspects of these projects and has been holding the line on expenditures. We can understand that spending about $1 million toward an annex is a concern, and this was not an easy decision for the Board. The Board had to consider the quality of life/educational environment for the students and staff who will live with the construction over the next two to three school years while attending school at the same time.
The community invested in these schools 50 years ago and built fine facilities that our school boards, past and present, and staff have maintained over these past 50 years. WE ARE THANKFUL!
JAMS and MCHS are no longer the “new” schools and have lived way beyond the expected lifespan of heating, ventilation, electrical, etc. Throughout this process the Board has kept in mind how to maintain and improve these buildings to last for the next 50 years without getting “all the bells and whistles.” The renovations will be wonderful without including extravagant furnishing and “extras” along the way. The Board has been mindful of spending, has sought as many grants as possible, pursued Qualified School Construction Bonds and has sold revenue bonds to help pay for these updates. The Board of Education understands these improvements are an investment in the community and in our children.
Every person who has ever owned a home has made improvements in their homes over time and probably didn’t wait 50 years to change their electrical wiring, replace a furnace or get air conditioning into their home.
These improvements are on behalf of our children today and tomorrow. This work is an investment in the future of our community. GREAT SCHOOLS = GREAT COMMUNITIES!
As always, questions from our families and members of the community are welcome. Please feel free to direct any questions to the Superintendent’s office at 421-4401 or contact members of the Board of Education.
Mason City Board of Education
Tim Becker, President
Bob Thoms, Vice President