New school, tennis courts up to Council

It seems the Austin City Council now holds sway over the Austin Public School board’s efforts to build a new fifth- and sixth-grade intermediate school.

The board accepted bids for six new tennis courts to the west of Neveln Elementary School and preliminary site construction work to the east and south of Ellis Middle School Monday. The problem is, the Austin City Council must decide whether each project can go forward after Austin residents Kimberly and Mark Steene filed an appeal on the tennis court project. The council has yet to vacate Sixth Avenue SE within school property.

The board passed a resolution to accept the $351,600 bid from The Joseph Company, of Austin, to build six new tennis courts on property west of Neveln. Board members also accepted bids from Fraser Construction, of Rochester, and Ulland Brothers, of Albert Lea.

 

District officials hoped to build four tennis courts for about $250,000, and the site work for $785,000. The site work bids came in at $643,480, allowing the district to build two more tennis courts. Even with additional courts, the projects cost about $995,000, or about $39,000 less than projected.

Yet each project faces snags.

“In terms of the tennis courts, we did have planning commission approval,” Mark Stotts told board members Monday. Yet the city’s planning commission also allots time for people to appeal its decisions, and the Steenes filed an appeal last Friday, according to city officials.

In addition, while district officials originally thought the City Council had vacated Sixth Avenue SE within district property at Ellis, council members have yet to make the decision official at a public meeting. Work on both projects can’t start until the council approves the vacation and denies the tennis court appeal.

Stotts told the board the council is expected to review both projects at its May 7 meeting. The school board has a groundbreaking ceremony for the new school set for 11 a.m. on May 14.

 

Technological advances

The district is set to make technology improvements soon as the board approved upgrades to the district’s wireless infrastructure.

“We’re positioning ourselves to accommodate the future of mobile technologies and bring-your-own devices,” Corey Haugen, director of information technology, told the board.

The district will have more than 370 wireless access points installed at every district building except for the Community Learning Center this summer, as well as several wireless controllers with active-redundency. The wireless bid, from Transcend United Technologies, came in at about $414,000 while the district’s structured cabling will be done by Electric Resource Contractors for about $123,000. In total, the project will cost about $534,000 and is expected to finish by Aug. 24.

 

In other news, board members:

—Discussed its school and building naming policy. The board approved the naming policy at its public meeting earlier this month and will soon appoint a Citizens’ Work Group to bring three to five name recommendations for the new intermediate school to the board. The group will have student, parent, teacher, administrator, business and community representation and will take public input through the district’s website. The Citizens Work Group is expected to review recommendations starting in August and will present its findings to the board in November or December.

—Discussed Vision 2020 ideas. Superintendent David Krenz encouraged board members to get involved in the Vision 2020 process and asked for volunteers to be on the “Education Leaders” idea committee, one of the final 10 projects. Vision 2020 is a grassroots community betterment project launched in 2011 looking for 10 major ideas to implement by 2020.

“We need to be a part of what is happening,” Krenz told board members. “As educational leaders, we need to be a part of this process.”

The Education Leaders idea involves developing a city-wide learning campus bringing various academic and practical subjects together to help students of all types achieve success, whether through college readiness or workforce preparation. The topic is vague compared to specific ideas like the Gateway to Austin attraction or the revitalization of the old Austin Utilities building, which includes moving the Spam Museum there.

“There’s nothing real specific right now,” chairman Jeff Kritzer said. Board members and educators still hope to participate in several idea committees, as several of them, such as the Community-Wide Technology idea, could positively affect the district.

“There’s a lot of impact here as a school district,” Krenz said.

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