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Pine City School Board Updated on Facilities Project

The Pine City School board heard an update from the architecture firm it hired for the Elementary School Project during its meeting Monday.

Since hiring LHB earlier this year, the district has been working with staff and community members to begin the process of evaluating school buildings and deciding what the next steps are going to be.

A community group started meeting on Wednesdays, where Senior Architect Troy Miller says he's been encouraging attendees to bring friends and neighbors.

"The first two meetings, we spent a lot of time talking about the background of the district. How did we get to where we are, and what are the things that impact the district," Miller told the board."

He told the board they've been looking at enrollment trends and how they influence the needs within the Pine City School District.

"At the end of the day, I think a lot of what the public looks at is if your enrollment is staying steady or declining a little bit in the last 10 years, why is there a space need? The fact of the matter is there are a lot of programs out there that didn't exist when the schools were constructed," said Miller.

Weighing structural improvements and repairs while considering the financial impact of bringing portions of the building up to code is also something that LHB and the assembled group are grappling with.

Miller also told the board that while conducting soil tests on the '62 addition of the Elementary School, they discovered that the ground is settling faster than the building, which leaves about a two-inch air gap between the soil and the building.

"You've been experiencing a lot of plumbing issues in that part of the building. If the ground is settling and separating from the (concrete) slab, it's pulling that plumbing down and causing issues with the way things drain."

Miller said a possible solution would be to mud-jack the building to get it sitting back how it should; however, it may only be a temporary fix given the soil quality under the building. Soil engineers think that it still might settle that two inches over time.

"The question that everyone is grappling with in all those committee meetings now is, do you save that building and that addition knowing that you might have more issues down the road, or do we just walk away from it and find someplace else to put ten classrooms, a cafeteria, and kitchen," said Miller.

The group is also considering safety upgrades at both buildings. That includes procedures for allowing visitors inside and what can be done internally.

"We know that 90% plus of all violence that happens in middle and high schools are student on student or student on staff. What are the things we're doing as designers and what are the things the district is doing to address bullying? That's been part of the conversation and discussion moving forward," Miller told the board.

Once these plans are finalized, LHB will hand them over to RA Morton, the construction management firm hired by the district, to assemble possible cost estimates and project timelines.

These community meetings are held on Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m. Community members interested in participating can contact Pine City Superintendent Cindy Stolp.

No official timeline for a finalized plan was been set by the district, but for a referendum to be held this November, Superintendent Stolp said that plans need to be submitted to the state by July.

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