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Raymond Central’s buildings could use improvement, says BVH research

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Raymond Central Aug. '22 Patron Meeting

TALKING IT OUT: Members of Raymond Central’s patron committee discuss potential solutions that could be chosen to improve issues faced by the district. At a patron meeting on Aug. 31, BVH Architecture presented the results of surveys of Raymond Central teachers, as well as the results of an audit of each of the district’s buildings. (Staff Photo by Sam Crisler)

RAYMOND – For the past year, Raymond Central’s administration has tasked itself with finding the best way to address rising enrollment as their buildings either fill up or show signs of age. 

In a public meeting on Aug. 31, representatives of BVH Architecture said the district’s leaders have done well with the facilities they’ve been dealt. But the results of BVH’s summer research suggest that it might be time for the district to make a few changes. 

The Raymond Central Board of Education hired BVH in March to guide the district as it attempts to solve capacity, transportation and facilities issues while ensuring the solutions it chooses align with the district’s educational practices. 

“Part of what we want to do is work with your staff and community to really understand what education is trying to happen today, how can you best facilitate that, and how are the existing facilities working for and against that today,” BVH Principal Architect Cleve Reeves said. 

He said modern educational programs aim to provide positive learning environments that allow for collaboration and multiple uses. 

“There are architectural or facility things that we can do to help foster that,” Reeves said. 

At the meeting, held in Raymond Central High School’s auxiliary gym, Reeves and BVH Project Manager Roger Slosson presented the results of their research to a group of about 40 community members whom the district has tabbed to provide feedback on facility discussions. 

Slosson and Reeves shared data gathered by surveying teachers and performing an audit of the district’s three facilities – Ceresco Elementary, Valparaiso Elementary and the central-site campus that combines high school, middle school and pre-kindergarten programs. 

Each staff had individual concerns based on the layout and function of their own building – drafty windows, limited storage and difficult topography at Ceresco Elementary; an excess of space, lack of ADA accessibility and poor playground drainage at Valparaiso Elementary; and ineffective music spaces, crowded science labs and pre-K isolation at the central campus. 

The presentation shared anonymous quotes from staff about the issues at their buildings. 

A Valparaiso teacher had this to say: “A two-story building is not the best setting for an elementary school. We are very spread out and running all over the building.” 

A Ceresco teacher said this: “With bigger class sizes, classrooms are too small and provide no room for adequate movement or space for small groups.”

Staff at Ceresco Elementary and the central site both had concerns about the lack of available space for collaboration and flexible teaching. At the central site, hallways are reportedly cramped, and the music program is filled to the point that choir classes are held in the multi-purpose Mustang Room. 

“The acoustic properties of that room just aren’t right, really, for those types of activities,” Reeves said.

Staff at all three buildings expressed a desire to be closer to co-workers at the district’s other buildings and noted the inefficiencies associated with travel between buildings. 

“We’re not able to be in the right place at the right time because we are so spread out,” said one teacher. 

And a central site teacher said this: “[Staff] are not able to meet kids’ needs at the right time … staff are traveling so much that it is really hard to be in the right place at the right time.”

In the survey, staff were asked to rate their buildings from one to 10 in five categories used in determining a school’s educational alignment: teaching and learning practices, educational programming fit, safety and security, patron access and support, and fit for current and projected enrollment. On the 10-point scale, the central site received a 4.756 based on 46 responses, Valparaiso Elementary received a 4.646 on 13 responses and Ceresco Elementary received a 4.867 on 12 responses. 

Slosson also shared the results of BVH’s facility audit, which examined each building’s condition. Among other things, the central site building needs a partial roof replacement, kitchen updates and new windows; Ceresco Elementary needs improved plumbing, lighting and IT infrastructure; and Valparaiso Elementary needs tech upgrades, playground renovations and structural support on one corner of the building. 

The buildings were given scores out of 100 based on their condition – the central site scored a 78.59, Valparaiso scored a 67.98 and Ceresco Elementary scored a 72.15.

“We were actually surprised that the facility audit scores were as high as they were, given the ages of the facilities,” Reeves said. “And I think that’s a testament to the school district taking care of what you have.”

From there, BVH combined the facility audit scores with the educational alignment scores. The central site received a 63.12, Valparaiso Elementary received a 57.22 and Ceresco Elementary received a 60.41, placing each building in the “Fair” category. 

BVH also laid out four potential “ingredients” that could be considered as solutions to the district’s issues.

The first possibility would be to renovate Ceresco Elementary to include Pre-K through third grade and Valparaiso Elementary to house fourth grade through sixth grade.

The second option would be to build a new elementary school at the central site.

Third would be an addition and remodel to the central site building.

Last, Reeves presented what he called the “shoot for the moon” option: a conversion of the current central site building into an elementary school and the construction of a new high school, also on the central site.

The patrons at the meeting were asked to write down pros and cons of each option.

“Don’t take any of these as an end-all, be-all answer because not one of these will probably solve all the issues that we discussed,” Reeves said. 

The next steps toward finding a solution, Reeves said, will take place at the school board’s regular monthly meeting on Sept. 14. 

“We will be taking all of this information to the board so they can give us marching orders going forward on whether they think one option is a viable ingredient, or if they’re not sure one is a viable ingredient,” he said. 

Another patron meeting will be held three to six weeks after the board meeting, Reeves said. The board is targeting a November decision on the direction it will take to address the district’s facilities needs. If a bond issue is part of the plan, a public vote would likely be scheduled for February 2023. 

No decisions were made at the meeting, and Superintendent Lynn Johnson noted that the district still has $5.6 million in outstanding bond payments on two previous projects. The bond repayment period ends in 2027. 

She told the patrons at the meeting that community input will continue to be important as the administration takes its next steps. 

“No matter where this takes us, the process of evaluating what we have and how it’s meeting our needs, that’s important regardless,” Johnson said. “It takes good people like you to see the end to that process.”

Johnson said she plans to upload BVH’s presentation to Raymond Central’s website. Feedback from the district’s February patron meeting can be found here.

Sam Crisler is a reporter for The Waverly News and the Wahoo Newspaper. Reach him via email at samuel.crisler@wahoonewspaper.com.

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