G-R facility committee tours secondary building, considers renovation or the ‘North Tama plan’

T-R PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER — Members of the Gladbrook-Reinbeck Facility Task Force work in small groups on Wednesday, March 27, in the secondary building cafeteria in Reinbeck. The committee was set to meet twice more before presenting their ideas to the school board later this month.

REINBECK — Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s 1921 secondary building is old, out of date, deteriorating in multiple places, and running out of time.

Such was the consensus of many of the roughly 20 community members who attended the district’s fourth of six planned Facility Task Force meetings led by SitelogIQ community engagement specialist Dan Rooney on Wednesday, March 27.

The volunteer committee – which began meeting in late February in either Reinbeck or Gladbrook – has been charged with exploring, brainstorming, and evaluating “potential long-term, flexible, and fiscally responsible solutions” as part of a long-term facility master plan, according to the district’s website.

During the first three meetings, the committee formulated feedback on potential SAVE (local option sales tax) projects, toured the elementary building, and heard from North Tama Superintendent David Hill regarding his district’s recent successful bond referendum.

During the fourth meeting on Wednesday, it was the secondary building’s turn in the spotlight, and much of it wasn’t pretty.

Rooney opened the meeting in the high school cafeteria by laying out the schedule – the group would quickly go over the secondary building’s engineering report, then take a tour of the building focusing mostly on the electrical, mechanical, and HVAC components, after which they would meet in small groups to discuss what exactly the future should hold for the building.

The engineer’s report

Not much was presented in the engineer’s report that has not been previously reported on by this newspaper.

Before diving into the presentation, Rooney asked for a show of hands in response to the statement: “Knowing what you know now, should the path forward be…”

Committee members were given four options to finish the sentence including:

-Renovate the current High/Middle school complex

-Build a new facility (in phases) like North Tama with the goal of tearing down the 1921 building


-I don’t know

No one raised their hand in response to the first option – renovation. Ten people thought the North Tama approach was best. Three hitched their wagons to ‘neither.’ Four said they did not know what the path forward should be.

Rooney then got to work laying out all that was great, not so great, and truly terrible when it came to the 1921 original building, the 1968 addition, and the 2004 addition, which included the cafeteria where the meeting took place.

Those who have been involved with the G-R district in some manner over the years are more than likely aware that the building does not have air conditioning and lacks proper ventilation. Various heating systems exist throughout the multi-story building including steam, gas fired, and hot water. While the boiler is fairly new having been installed in 2012, the steam piping is original to the 1921 building.

There is also a severe lack of ADA-accessibility especially in the bathrooms and around the entrances and doors – even in the 2004 addition. And finally, the entrances are not secure.

“Once you’re in, you’re in,” Rooney said.

The tour

G-R operations manager Shane Hawkins was then tasked with leading committee members – including Rooney, who was filming with his camera – on a tour of the building due to Superintendent Caleb Bonjour being out sick.

Hot, humid, and “now this is really hot” when it came to temperature regulation were just a few of the adjectives that popped up among the group as they moved between the building’s four floors.

The electrical in the Family and Consumer Sciences room appeared to be not safe, while a persistently leaking heater in the art room requires the emptying of a bucket at least every day in order to prevent a massive pond from forming.

Several in the group commented that they had previously taken almost an identical tour back in August of 2022 with former G-R Superintendent Erik Smith. It was provided ahead of the district’s failed November bond referendum, which would have addressed facility issues.

During Wednesday’s tour, Hawkins took a small group of interested committee members – all men – down into the boiler room. A room that is only accessible by going outside and that floods anytime there is rain.

“So I guess it’s good we’re in a drought,” one committee member said, causing several people to chuckle and shake their heads.

After checking out the space and learning a bit more from Hawkins about the constant babysitting the building’s steam system requires, the men turned to leave but were stopped when Hawkins suddenly realized the boiler had quit working — an unplanned development, of course, but indicative of what the district is up against.

Later, as the men made their way back to the cafeteria for small group work, Hawkins briefly spoke with the newspaper. He characterized his work as “always chasing my tail.”

“It’s usually the plumbing over at the elementary. Here, it’s so much more. Truthfully, half the plug-ins are broken. The emergency lights, most of them failed [during the state fire marshal’s inspection],” he said. “It’s just [that we’re] always behind the eight ball.”

When asked if during the roughly year and a half he’s been with the district if he’s ever had a day where his work is just routine – no emergencies, no band-aid fixes, no broken down boilers – he shook his head solemnly.

“No, because I haven’t been able to start a routine yet since I got here,” he said.

The tasks

Back in the cafeteria, the room split itself into four small groups which were composed of both Reinbeck and Gladbrook residents including the mayor of Gladbrook, Trudi Scott, as well as several current and retired G-R teachers and staff.

Rooney then passed out giant Post-it pads and gave the groups a set of tasks: make a list of what the secondary building ‘must have’ and what would be ‘nice to have,’ and then formulate pros and cons for renovating the building versus replacing the building.

After the groups were brought back together, Rooney asked a representative from each to share their lists – chief among the lists was cost.

One of the group’s reps simply stated, “There’s only one (pro and con). The cost. What is it?”

“Money, of course,” another group’s rep shared. “That was the con of both of them.”

“The con would be trying to convince the community. Unless they actually see it and walk it, people don’t understand,” a third group’s rep said.

“The only con or pro of remodeling or new is cost,” Mayor Scott said. “That’s the world we live in today. That’s what we got to know, how much is it going to cost us? … We need the numbers.”

Just before the evening ended, Rooney again conducted the straw poll he used to open, asking committee members to raise their hands in response to the statement: “Knowing what you know now, should the path forward be…”

As before, no one raised their hand for the renovation option. Nine hands went up for the phased-in ‘North Tama plan.’ One person cast their lot with ‘neither.’ And, finally, eight folks went with ‘I don’t know.’

Hardly a consensus which speaks volumes for where the district finds itself these days – trying to mend after a tumultuous period in the wake of the Gladbrook buildings’ closure nearly a decade ago — a closure only made worse when the buildings were subsequently torn down in 2022 during Gladbrook’s 100th Corn Carnival.

Whatever the committee’s final recommendations end up being – recommendations which will be presented to the school board later this month – there is a lot of work yet to be done and a building that just keeps getting older.

Further information on G-R’s facility planning process can be found on the district’s website: https://sites.google.com/gr-rebels.net/facility/home.


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