Rib Lake sees large turnout for listening sessions
School district is looking at a possible building project, seeks input from community members on priorities
The Rib Lake School District facilities are old. The newest school is the Elementary School, which is twenty- four years old. The Middle School is the next oldest, built in 1981 - making it forty-two years old. The oldest building in the Rib Lake School District is the High School. It was built in 1964, making it fifty-nine years old. A lot of the things in the high school are original to the building, including most of the kitchen equipment. All of the buildings lack secure entrances and necessary safety measures. This is a fact that inspired the Rib Lake School Board to make changes.
“We are here to look at everything. What’s best for the kids, what’s best for the community. The kids come first,” said Board member Rollie Thums.
He has also stated a few times at meetings that Rib Lake Schools need to keep up with the changing times, or they will become obsolete.
In conjunction with the Rib Lake Board of Education, Excel Engineering held three listening sessions on May 3, 2023. In late 2022, the Board made the decision to put together a 10-year facilities plan. They hired Excel Engineering, who went through all of the Rib Lake School District facilities with a fine-toothed comb: opening every door, looking in every nook, and taking pictures the whole time. They then put together an “existing conditions assessment.” This gave ratings to all of the facilities, getting down to specifics such as code compliance, the state of the flooring and roofing, down to the furniture in the buildings. The rating system broke down into three parts. The first is “good,” meaning that the district has over ten years before they need to replace or do major repairs on that section. The second is “fair.” A “fair” rating meant that that section would need to be replaced in around five years. The last rating was “poor,” which meant that the district needed to address these issues as soon as possible. Excel rated the Elementary School as a whole as in “fair” condition due to factors such as electrical problems and plumbing issues and the Middle and High Schools as in “poor” condition due to problems such as safety and security and ADA compliance. They also rated the Outdoor Athletics spaces as in “poor” condition.
Based on this, Excel put together a dollar amount, which included a 1-to-1 replacement of everything they rated in “fair” or “poor” conditions, not making any upgrades or changing anything about the buildings.
Excel also put together an “Educational Space and Capacity Analysis.” They gathered information about how, when, and how often spaces in the schools were used. They also interviewed staff members about how the spaces in the schools could be used better and what improvements they would like to see in the future of Rib Lake schools.
Then, Excel started planning. With the information they gathered, they created plans for each school that rearranged the rooms for better use of Rib Lake’s space. They put together plans that fixed the maintenance problems they had noticed and plans that added ideas and fixed the issues that the staff and the Board had brought to Excel’s attention. They presented their rearranging, remodeling, and building ideas to the Board, with Baird also presenting on the financial side of these types of projects. The Board gave their opinions, Excel went back to change their ideas to match the Board’s vision. Then, they had the listening sessions. At the listening sessions, Architect David Vanden Avond, Education Market Manager Tricia Muellenbach, and School Administrator Travis Grubbs presented this information and more to the Rib Lake public and Rib Lake School District staff.
Among the information presented at the listening session, included was the costs the district can afford, as well as the costs of the potential project. According to calculations from Baird, the most money the district can borrow is $31 million, but they do not recommend spending that amount. At the time of publication, the people of Rib Lake are still paying off the referendum from 2015, which will be paid off in full in May of 2024.
The plans on the table do not involve much, if any, remodel to the Elementary School. The plan for that building is to move around classrooms to accommodate the addition of 4K. The current plan is also to move the District Office out of the Elementary School, and into a connected Middle and High School. Every plan presented by Excel included the two buildings becoming connected in order to ensure the safety of the Rib Lake students walking between buildings. This was a common thing that nearly everyone brought up during their conversations with Excel. Another thing the plans had was space for a daycare. The potential daycare would be in a corner of the current high school and have an outdoor play area. The daycare would have outside staffing with the space provided by the district as a way to create more childcare for Rib Lake area residents. The space for the daycare is created by merging some of the classrooms based on the aforementioned space analysis. The classrooms being merged include art rooms, FACS rooms, and science labs. Other things being addressed in the remodels are the size of the choir and band spaces at the middle and high school. In the plans, Excel has a plan to make these spaces work better for the programs. In one plan, they also create a performing arts area in conjunction with the cafeteria. Also addressed is the placement, size, and outdatedness of the kitchen at the high school.
In the coming months, a survey will be released to the people of Rib Lake. To make your voice heard during this project, come to Rib Lake Board of Education meetings, do the survey, and come to community listening sessions. If the Board makes the decision to go to referendum, go out and vote in April of 2024. Keep yourselves updated by going to the Rib Lake District webpage, and keeping reading your local paper.