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Abby K-12 discusses options for dome

Abby K-12 discusses options for dome Abby K-12 discusses options for dome

Abbotsford’s school board held a special meeting on June 23 to discuss financing and floor plan options for a multi-purpose storm shelter that will be partially paid for with a recently awarded FEMA grant.

The district is hoping to use much of the dome-shaped structure’s interior space for additional classrooms to handle Abbotsford’s growing student population.

Under the original plan, the interior of the dome would include four classrooms, a moderately sized theater stage with pull out bleachers, as well as a middle school sized gym. However, superintendent Sherry Baker unveiled a new floor plan at last week’s meeting — one that would allow for the creation of six classrooms instead of the previous four.

“I had asked Mason [Rachu] to come up with a plan and he converted the stage area to classrooms,” Baker said, referring to the buildings and grounds manager. “This represents a world of maximizing classroom space while still providing for significant multi-use in the middle.”

With Rachu’s new design, there would still be a common space; albeit, smaller than the first floor plan. However, the proposed theater would be eliminated, with the extra space then being converted into additional classrooms, giving the district six.

Baker noted that the district is running out of room, and had already maximized every available space.

“Right now all your classrooms are in use. Elementary is entirely leveraged and so is the middle school and high school” Baker said. “So, the discussion will have to be had at some point, ‘Where do you go with what?’” Jordan Buss of JBAD Solutions, who assisted the district in obtaining FEMA the grant, informed the board that some features, such as a self-sufficient utility and mechanical rooms, as well as men’s and women’s restrooms, are non-negotiable. However, much of the interior space can be apportioned as the district sees fit.

“You’re not married to that layout,” Buss said. “As long as you don’t inhibit the minimum eligible space, you have some wiggle room.”

School board member Gary Schraufnagel noted that if the district converts the theater stage into two additional classrooms it would be difficult and expensive to convert it back into a stage at some point in the future. But board member Shanna Hackel noted that the board must “look at the needs and not the wants” of the district.

If the board chose to keep the theater, Baker said it would help encourage a different atmosphere at the district, allowing for greater musical and stage productions as well as bringing a new focus on the arts.

After hearing from Buss that both floor plans could be approved as long as the district meets its financial obligation, the board chose to move forward with the original floor plan, voting to stay with four classrooms instead of six.

Buss said he will share this decision with FEMA.

Baker and the board also discussed options on how to finance the dome, but no decisions were made. In light of the state’s impending financial shortfall due to the COVID-19 shutdown, Baker said the district must come up with an answer “sooner rather than later.”

Now that the grant has been awarded, the district has three years to complete construction of the dome.