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School discusses options for future of high school building

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Members of the Gettysburg School Board and an appointed building committee are researching needs regarding a high school building. During a special meeting in October, members of the groups met with Dean Marske and Scott Sikkink of HKG Architects from Aberdeen to discuss the next step.
Marske explained that structural engineers had gone through the 90 year old building and determined that while it is sound, it doesn’t meet current requirements. “It has a lot of deficiencies,” he said. “The life safety, fire codes, accessibility — all of those.” He talked about the costs associated with bringing the building up to current standards, and that there are no building codes that would currently allow a three story building to be made out of the combustible materials like those used in the existing high school.
Conservatively, it was estimated that the costs for remodeling would run in the range of $120 per square foot. Gettysburg High School is 33,785 square feet.
New construction could range from $115 per square foot for steal to $145 for brick and block construction.
Board members stressed that understanding the true cost of renovating versus new building construction costs are key to the project discussion and need to be detailed and shared with the community. The board agreed that all options need to be carefully reviewed and studied while trying to figure out what is best for the students and the area.
A critical part of the discussion is making sure the school building is in good shape and can meet the needs of the students now and into the future.
Some schools around the state have been faced with situations in which an older school building becomes condemned and the process hasn’t been started.
It was also stressed that the project needs to be done within a cost that is acceptable and manageable to the school district.
Marske gave examples of other schools his business has worked with in the region, from Miller to Redfield to Mobridge. He explained that it is important to work with the staff and school board to conduct surveys and determine needs, and he shared examples of floor plans and architectural drawings from other schools.
While remodeling the existing high school building is an option, Marske indicated that it may not be an ideal situation. The architects explained that the contingency is higher for remodeling projects because of what may be masked behind walls or under ceilings, and updates to pipes and electrical work will be necessary. Marske also said that the three story building would require two elevators, which cost a minimum of $225,000 each. That figure translates to the equivalent of five classrooms in new construction.
Another consideration is where the students would attend classes during a remodeling project. Since the work must start from the bottom of the building going up, a remodeling project generally takes several months.
New school construction takes one year from ground breaking to finish, with no interruption in existing classroom use.
School Superintendent Tim Hagedorn acknowledged that the school is in the early stages of the building discussions. “I think everybody agrees that we need to do something,” he said. “We need some direction in what we need to do and what is the best route to take.”
The architects will work on options for both a remodel project and new construction, and will meet with the board and building committee prior at the regular School Board meeting on Nov. 12 at 6 p.m. More detail on the project costs will also be presented.
The meeting is open to the public and will be held in the elementary school library.
Members of the school building committee are Matt Cronin, Tom Fairbanks, Paul Kellogg, Tim Hagedorn, Wendy Smith, Vern Smith, Barb Everson, Kevin Geditz, Kevin Logan, Mandy Luikens, Josh Bausch, John Lake, Jeff Goebel, Cindy Frost, and Ed Wager.
–Molly McRoberts

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