Finding Solutions to Our Schools' Facility needs

The Dike-New Hartford Community School District has a number of facilities and capacity-related needs that we must address soon to ensure our students continue to have access to a top-quality educational experience that keeps students engaged and prepares them for postsecondary and career opportunities of the future. 

On Tuesday, March 3, 2020, all school district residents will have an opportunity to vote on a bond issue. If approved, the bond would allow DNH to move forward on several key projects to address our schools’ facility needs and provide more space for our students to learn and build 21st century skills. 

By acting now, the district and Board of Education believe we can address these needs and complete the updates and renovations that will ensure DNH schools continue to provide excellent learning environments for students now and in the years to come.

At the same time, we respect the need to keep property taxes low and to protect the investments our community has made in our schools. We look to make the most of every dollar community members invest in their local schools. As the board considers various options, we are prioritizing the potential cost and tax impact of each potential solution. 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Below are some answers to frequently asked questions regarding the school district's facility needs. We will continue to update these FAQs as we move forward. Please be sure to check back for updates, and do not hesitate to contact us if you have any additional questions.

 

What are the school district’s facility needs?

 

The number one priority for our school facilities is safety and security. Current needs include enhanced new secure entrances at both Dike and New Hartford elementary schools, as well as DNH High School.  

 

DNH also has a pressing need for more K-12 classroom space throughout our schools. Currently, there is no space to add a section of courses if needed. Many meeting spaces/instructional areas are currently being held in spaces not intended to be classrooms. Multiple spaces are being used for more than one class.

 

HVAC and mechanical improvements are another key area of need, especially when it comes to extending the life of current structures and technology equipment. Specific needs include:

  • Lighting/plumbing upgrades, with the addition of natural light spaces that improve learning quality

  • Air conditioning

  • Improvements in air quality

  • Replacement of ceiling tiles 

 

Finally, the district and board have identified several areas of need related to our high school athletic facilities. The construction of a new gymnasium would relieve pressure on the current facility, which has its gym and multi-use rooms on both campuses filled by recreation teams, especially between November and March. A gym would provide additional space for baseball/softball, track, cheer and other programs  to use. DNH is also adding an archery club, which will further increase strain on gym availability.

 

Additional needs at our high school athletic facilities include:

  • Increasing the size of the wrestling room

  • Increasing storage capacity

  • Improved weight room facility

  • Improved recognition areas for academic, fine arts and athletic success (such as all-state speech, all-state vocal/band, all-state athletes and trophy cases)

  • Improved study areas for students enrolled in dual-credit courses at the Western Outreach Center and transitioning throughout the day

  • Improved storage areas for band and vocal, allowing for space to be made available for individual and small-group rehearsals

 

Why does the school district have these needs?

 

The Dike-New Hartford Community School District is growing. Enrollment in the 2019-20 school year is up 21 students compared to last year. Projections indicate that our enrollment will continue to grow in the years to come.

 

Our enrollment growth mirrors population growth in the Dike-New Hartford community. For example, a housing addition will become available in New Hartford by mid-2020, adding 50 new lots to the district's attendance area.

 

Will the community get to vote on a solution to the district's needs?

 

Yes. Residents of the Dike-New Hartford Community School District can vote on the board’s proposed solution during a special election on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. All registered voters who live within DNH boundaries may cast their ballot.

 

District residents may also vote absentee. The last date an absentee ballot can be requested is February 21.

Why can't the district make cuts in other areas to address its facility needs?

 

While the board and district leaders have worked very hard to make the most of taxpayers’ investments in their schools, we cannot effectively address our capacity and facility needs by reducing access to programs and services for students. Cuts to programs and staff would hinder our ability to deliver the best possible educational experience possible and reduce the quality that our families and community members have come to expect from DNH.

How much revenue would the bond generate for the school district?

 

If approved, the bond issue would provide $9.4 million in General Obligation bonds for the district to fund key facilities projects throughout both the Dike and New Hartford campuses. SAVE (Secure an Advanced Vision for Education, or the one-cent sales tax) would provide an additional $8.5 million for a total cost of $17.9 million toward these projects.
 

How would the bond affect property taxes?

 

If approved, the bond would have a tax impact of no more than $2.70 per every $1,000 of net property tax value. Each year could vary depending on district budgeting needs, enrollment and other factors, but the taxpayer cost could never exceed this amount.

 

For the owner of a home with an assessed value of $100,000, this amounts to an estimated tax impact of $11.30 per month, or $135.61 per year. 

 

If the bond is approved, how would the district use those funds?

 

If approved, the bond would allow the school district to move forward on several projects to address its space and facility needs. These include:

  • Creation of secure entrances at Dike and New Hartford elementary schools and DNH High School

  • Addition of storm shelter safe-room spaces to both campuses

  • A new parking lot and drop-off lane added at New Hartford and a new drop-off lane added in Dike

  • The existing two-story high school would be completely renovated, and a portion of it would include a new science and agricultural exploratory wing featuring enhanced modern flexible lab spaces, classrooms and agricultural research space

  • Addition of about 38 parking spots at DNH High School

  • Adding grade level sections at both campuses

  • HVAC and mechanical improvements throughout both the Dike and New Hartford campuses. This includes upgraded air conditioning, lighting and air quality systems, along with the replacement of broken ceiling tiles

  • A new gym at DNH High School to relieve pressure on the district’s current gymnasiums and multi-use rooms

  • Improved study areas for students enrolled in dual-credit courses at the Western Outreach Center and transitioning throughout the day

  • Improved storage areas for band and vocal, allowing for space to be made available for individual and small-group rehearsals

  • Increasing the size of the wrestling room and improving the weight room facility at DNH High School

  • Improved recognition areas for academic, fine arts and athletic success (such as all-state speech, all-state vocal/band, all-state athletes and trophy cases)

  • Increasing storage capacity

 

How would the proposed projects enhance safety and security for students? 

 

A key component of the proposed projects is the creation of secure entrances at Dike and New Hartford elementary schools and DNH High School. These upgrades would place main offices at the exterior of the buildings, enhancing safety and improving way-finding for visitors. 

 

In addition, storm shelter safe-room spaces would be added to both the Dike and New Hartford campuses. 

 

Parent drop off and bus congestion would also be addressed on both campuses, with a new parking lot and drop-off lane added at New Hartford, as well as a new drop off lane in Dike. And, parking would be increased by about 38 spots at DNH High School. 

Do we really need to renovate our athletic facilities and add a new gym?

 

Our facilities committee reviewed and discussed the need to renovate athletic facilities and add a new gym. Through this process, the committee considered the fact that these are facilities are used throughout the year, with the busiest period being November through March. 

 

The committee felt it was important to look beyond Tuesday and Friday nights, when the district hosts its larger athletic events. The facilities are used by a variety of recreational teams. The high school also has a relatively new archery program, which has added to the volume of requests for gym time. 

 

In addition, the DNH High School weight room is currently open from 6:30 to 7:45 a.m. each day. Sports teams then use the weight room after practices. During the summer, student-athletes use the weight room at a high volume, usually from 5:00 to 9:00 a.m. It is estimated that more than 90% of DNH’s students use this facility at some point in their academic career.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The current weight room space is tight due to the high number of students using the equipment. The committee considered renovating the space, but decided to add it to the new gymnasium and use the current room for expanded storage.

 

Finally, the DNH wrestling program has grown over the past 10 years. Wrestlers now need a larger space to hold practices, which will also lessen the risk of injury caused by wrestlers rolling into one another or conducting moves that require a larger area. More athletes can also fully participate in practice with more available square footage.

The New Hartford campus has experienced flooding over the years. Why would we make upgrades to that campus if flooding is a concern?

 

Keeping all students, staff members and guests safe is always our top priority. The facilities committee believes that adding safe rooms to both campuses represents a good investment. The committee also feels that entrances need to be redesigned to require guests to pass through the office area before entering a school building during the day.  

 

The committee discussed the potential of flooding on the New Hartford campus and worked to use common sense when adding to that building. The district has a $500,000 flood insurance policy. If something catastrophic were to happen, the district would be covered with insurance and FEMA assistance. The only new construction at New Hartford includes the safe room and the entrance reconfiguration. All the other upgrades would take place inside the current school. 

 

Why isn’t the board proposing a new junior high or high school?

 

The board and facilities committee have discussed this possibility. A new high school/junior high would cost at least $30 million to $40 million. The district’s bonding capacity, which is about $22.5 million, would not support a project of that size. 

 

How would the proposed projects accommodate future growth in the district?

 

The plan being presented to the community allows for one to three flexible learning spaces at the New Hartford campus and four to five flexible learning spaces at the Dike campus. There are also provisions for a second level to be added to the new construction at Dike. 

What would be the timeline of the proposed projects?

 

If the bond passes in March 2020, project design and bidding would be completed in fall/winter 2020. Construction would then start in early 2021 and would be completed by fall 2022. 

Would the added air conditioning and square footage increase operating costs for the district?

 

At the Dike campus, one year of gas and electric utility costs (excluding water) is currently about $148,300. These costs would increase to $185,000 to $190,000 with the additional square footage and AC units in the proposed projects. 

At the New Hartford campus, one year of gas and electric utility costs (excluding water) is currently about $36,990. These costs would increase to $75,000 to $80,000 with the additional square footage and AC units in the proposed projects. 

Would more square footage result in a need for more custodial staff?

 

The district is aware of the possibility that an extra custodial staff member may be needed to cover the increased space should the proposed projects be constructed. Once the structure is built and operations begin, we will assess this potential need. The district will not know for certain until then. For now, the district expects to need, at minimum, another part-time custodial position.

Why isn’t an early childcare center included in the plans?

 

The district’s facilities committee discussed including an early childhood center in the plans. Ultimately, committee members could not make it work with the programs offered at the high school. However, the district continues to pay close attention to increasing early childhood needs and is looking to partner with community members and organizations to further explore these needs.

Find information on outstanding property tax levies and maximum levy limits for FY 2020 at https://dom.iowa.gov/document/outstanding-property-tax-levies-and-maximum-levy-limits-fy2020

© 2019 Dike-New Hartford Community School District

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