Additions to Prairie View discussed at session

by Kurt Nesbitt
Contributing Writer
The Elk River Area School Board is considering $13.6 million worth of projects that could expand Prairie View Elementary and Middle School.

School Board members heard three presentations, but did not vote at their work session on June 12.

If the district decides to move ahead with any of the proposals, they will add to the cost of building the new school. Voters approved the $98 million construction in 2014. The new school, located in Otsego, is scheduled to open this fall with early childhood and kindergarten through sixth-grade classes. Seventh- and eighth-grade classes will be phased in over the next two school years.

Adding a wing that has 10 classrooms, a special education area, two labs and a staff area would cost an additional $8.8 million. An expansion of the school’s gym would cost another $2.6 million. Project Lead The Way, a federal program aimed at giving students hands-on experience in computer science, biomedical science and engineering, could also get its own space for $2.2 million.

The possible expansion could also make more room for special education. Some of the district’s special services staff asked for dedicated space for students who have severe emotional and behavioral needs. They told the officials that more students need their most intensive services and the possibility of injury to others is also increasing as more students come into the program. Newer, safer facilities are needed to handle students who have emotional and behavioral issues, they said.

Athletic fields could also see turf instead of grass. The main reason for the district looking at a replacement, said interim Superintendent Bruce Watkins, is that turf requires less maintenance and allows more use, regardless of weather.

Greg Hein, the district’s executive director of business services, said the district could fund those projects through a lease levy, where the district would make a lease-to-own agreement with a bank and pay the bank back. The district could also issue new construction bonds, use money left over from previous bond issues and levies or ask voters to approve new funds in another referendum,

Hein estimated that the lease levy would add $20 each year for 15 years to the taxes levied on a $250,000 home.