$1.9 million approved for new gym and HVAC system at Pierre schools

By | November 11, 2020

Pierre School District Board members authorized two capital projects with a projected total cost of $1.9 million, one at Georgia Morse Middle and the other at T.F. Riggs High, to proceed at the monthly board meeting Monday evening.

Pierre School District Business Manager Darla Mayer updated the board on the proposed upgrades in the two buildings and requested to proceed with finalizing the plans and specifications for the projects and advertising for bids. Both projects were unanimously greenlighted by board members.

The projects are to replace the gym flooring and bleachers at Georgia Morse and make mechanical upgrades for heating and cooling at Riggs, planned to take place over the next summer. Both projects will involve consulting by Sioux Falls-based Koch Hazard Architects.

“For the most part, [the Buildings and Grounds Committee tries] to finalize our planning for major projects by early January so that the plans and specifications are all set to go so that we can advertise for bids around February or early March at the latest, and we seem to get the best pricing and competition from contractors when we do that. And that’s what our plan is for the upcoming summer as well,” Mayer said at the meeting.

  • At Georgia Morse, the gym flooring, bleachers, and basketball hoop backstops will be replaced. The current bleachers are old and heavy and take up more space than is necessary, so in order to maximize the use of the space, the new bleachers will have less rows. The position of the main basketball court will be adjusted slightly to accommodate the change. Mayer said the committee is planning to bid a few different options — both resilient wood-looking vinyl, similar to the gym at Kennedy Elementary and wood floor options — and bring them to the board to consider once all the bids are received.
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The projected cost of the project is around $252,700, and according to Mayer, the district has adequate funds budgeted for the project and the associated consulting fees. Koch Hazard Architects is helping to finalize plans and specifications for the project, as well as providing all construction documents and bidding and construction administration services.

  • The larger project planned for summer 2021 is the upgrade to Riggs’ HVAC system, which has been planned for years. The project involves a “necessary replacement of old equipment” such as boilers and pumps — some of which have not been updated since 1975 — eliminating steam equipment, replacing 20-year-old chillers, as well as heating and cooling additions for the technology education building and art wing.

The projected cost is around $1.65 million, and there is $1.8 million budgeted for the project in the capital outlay plan, split between the current fiscal year and the next. The project will take around eight months to complete.

“The replacements and upgrades are necessary to maintain and efficiently operate the heating and cooling systems for Riggs High School,” Mayer told the Capital Journal. “In cooperation with Koch Hazard, we are working with mechanical and electrical engineers from Associated Consulting Engineering to determine the best options for this major project.”

Another project at Georgia Morse, replacing the asphalt driveway in front of the school and reconfiguring the Highland Street drop-off zone, is also planned for the summer, but Mayer refrained from asking the board for authorization to continue as a consultant is not yet recommended to work on the project.

“We have some work to do yet on this project…but we do plan to work with a civil engineer and get some ideas, and then we’ll be back at a future board meeting to talk to you about that,” Mayer said.

Two years ago, the estimated cost to replace the asphalt with concrete was around $75,000, which has more than likely increased. Mayer said the committee will “probably” request bids for both asphalt and concrete for the project.

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After this summer’s upgrades, the Pierre School District’s next major project will be “major additions” to Buchanan Elementary School, which will include a new gymnasium identical to the one at Kennedy Elementary, additional classroom space, and a more secure, remodeled front entrance. The funds for the project are already budgeted out, and construction is anticipated to begin in spring 2022. Another project to add a commons area to Jefferson Elementary is also in the works, planned for summer 2023. The goal is for all three elementary schools to have comparable space and amenities.

COVID-19 Update

While construction projects can be planned ahead of time, the district’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be as easily planned in advance.

“We’re excited to have all the students back at Riggs. I know the timing of that…I wish, in hindsight, we would have done it a few weeks earlier, and I say that not only because we want the kids back and think that’s best for them, but the timing of when we did it, the cases were on the rise, and as you know, they still are,” Superintendent Kelly Glodt said at the meeting. “I give a lot of credit to parents and to our students as we monitor the cases each and every day. We’re going to have positive cases, there’s no question…although we wish we had none, I don’t know that that will be the case for a while.”

The biggest challenge the district faces right now, Glodt said, is making sure that enough staff members are not infected and that school buildings can remain open.

“We think it’s critical that all of our students are in school as many days as they can be there,” he said. “We’re in communication with the buildings every day. I wish I could tell you what the next chance will be or if there will be another change…In the Pierre School District, I would venture to guess that we have not made the last change. Because eventually, we’re going to start changing to loosen things up and to maybe get away from some of the things we’re doing now. But obviously, that’s not the time right now,” Glodt said.

In keeping with COVID precautions, the district’s annual Veterans Day programs have been canceled. Students will still be discussing Veterans Day in their classrooms, but parents and veterans are not invited to the schools for the traditional programming. Glodt said the main program that is usually held at Riggs was taped at the high school last week and will air on Wednesday at 11 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m., and high schoolers will watch the program in their homerooms. After that, the program will be available for viewing at any time on Oahetv.com.

All district schools will release early this Friday, Nov. 13 at 12:30 p.m. to allow students to travel to Vermillion for the state championship football game at 7 p.m.

“I want to congratulate Mr. Moser, Coach Steele and the Governors football team on a heck of a win last Friday. So now we’re headed this Friday back to Vermillion to play for the fourth straight time..to win our fourth straight state championship. It’s going to be an exciting time,” Glodt said.

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