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In ‘historic’ vote, PSD moves grades 6-8 to what is now intermediate school

Grades 4-5 to move to older building

PRESCOTT – In an action described as “historic,” the Prescott School Board voted to move its middle school level students to what is now the Prescott Intermediate School.

Conversely, grades four and five will move to the present middle school building.

The vote was held at the Prescott School Board meeting, forced to the Zoom online platform because of bad weather Dec. 21.

If everything goes as planned with work that needs to happen with asbestos abatement at the present Malone Intermediate School, 1220 St. Croix St., the building will become the new Prescott Middle School for the start of classes in the fall.

The building is the former high school facility and is much better suited for three grade levels than the current middle school building at 125 Elm St. N., which is the oldest district building.

The board voted to move forward with the building switch, and in a separate vote set the date for the start of the 2023-24 school year, contingent on work timelines. Both votes were 4-1, with Steve Sizemore voting “nay” on both motions. Sizemore was looking for assurances that the move wouldn’t cut too deeply into the district’s fund balance. Also, he pointed to talk of the need for upgrades of outdoor facilities, such as the track.

Superintendent Dr. Rick Spicuzza said that the building swap has been in district plans based on community planning from 2015 when the new Prescott High School building went up.

“Why didn’t that move forward in 2016? The primary reason was we really didn’t have the money to make that move,” Spicuzza said.

Since that time, the district has built its savings account – its fund balance – to $6.5 million. That would leave the district $4.8 million for four months of salaries and expenditures and leave $1.7 million for investing in the district. The district also has saved $1.1 million in its capital improvement fund that can be used when necessary.

The cost of the move by this coming fall was projected at $898,000, especially since many projects needed at the current intermediate school – mainly asbestos removal – are covered by referendum funds. Prescott voters approved borrowing $15 million for facility and maintenance projects in the spring. The future middle school building will have much of its flooring removed because it contains asbestos. Also, water and gas lines through the building will be replaced and can be retrofitted to middle school facility needs.

“I believe this is a very fair and conservative estimate,” said Spicuzza.

A second phase after the building is a middle school will be development of space for teaching of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Spicuzza said the move has been a long time coming.

“We started this not just this year. It really is based on community and long-term planning that began even before my tenure and the building of the high school in 2016,” he said.

Spicuzza said moving costs would be $40,000, which would include moving materials from classrooms into semitrailers while work is being done in what will be the middle school.

The district already has $90,000 in its budget for this year for furniture in the buildings already, and additional money would need to come from the fund balance or the capital improvement fund. Technology for safety would also be enhanced at the buildings.

“This would allow us the opportunity to complete what I would say is the last part of the strategic plan,” said Spicuzza. “What we’re looking at is an ask for $900,000 to execute that move so the buildings and facilities are ready to meet the needs of our students.”

With the exception of Sizemore’s objections, board members were eager for the building swap.

“I’m in support of this,” said Pat Block.

“We’ve been saving and saving and these are the reasons we’ve saved for,” said Tanya Holub. “We’ve done a good job saving.”

Said Sizemore, “I worry a little bit because we’ve had the conversation about the athletic facilities and track. We’ve also talked over the last year or two about the state budget for education funding. I’m very cautious about touching the fund balance at all. That’s a concern I have. We need to be cautious.”

Spicuzza said that upgrades needed at the track are estimated at $300,000 and are included in the district budget. Above that, money would come from the capital improvement fund.

Board President Mike Matzek said with the amount the fund balance has been built to and what’s in the capital improvement budget, the plan works for the district.

“I’m comfortable with this. I think it’s a great first step to putting us in a better position here. Moving grades six, seven and eighth into the intermediate school and making that the middle school puts us in a great position long-term,” he said.

With construction already underway because of the referendum, it makes sense to do it now.

“There’s a lot of value to make the commitment now and not drag this out a whole lot further,” he said.

After the successful vote to restructure the grades, Spicuzza commented, “I think this is historic for the district. It will allow you as a district to move to the next plateau.”

The more difficult part may be making sure work can get done in the future middle school building, but Spicuzza is confident that can happen. However, bids on work under the referendum budget were set to go out this month and be back by March and April.

“That’s when we will know for the first time if we have vendors that can truly complete the work that’s asked to be done for the summer,” he said.

He said that Market & Johnson, which is overseeing the work, is confident.

“They believe this is in line with being able to be completed in the summer. All of the classrooms would need to be fully functional,” Spicuzza said. “Everyone is telling me it can get done, but they aren’t guaranteeing it.”

Staff would also be compensated if they work over their contracted 189 days getting ready for the move.

“Whenever you’re dealing with a project of this magnitude, there are timelines that will be shifting,” Matzek said. “Hopefully it works out. Timing is everything here.”

Spicuzza pointed out that summer school programming will take place from the high school building this year.

The board voted again 4-1 that the move should happen for fall of 2023 based on the work timeline.

January 10, 2023