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Belfield Superintendent suggests overcrowding, maintenance solutions to school board

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Belfield Superintendent Daren Kurle addressed the school board about overcrowding, sound and humidity issues Tuesday.

Kurle updated the school board on current and future maintenance projects. The heating and ventilation project for the weight room is almost complete, he said. Innovative Basement Systems finished jacking concrete by doors 1, 2 and 6, which should help draw water away from the building. Jacking in the boiler room should be completed by the end of the week.

The district is waiting on quotes for painting the three-story building and an update to the air conditioning unit in the kitchen.

Kurle proposed solutions to lower the sound in the gym during lunch, one of which included purchasing acoustic panels for the stage for $3,700 to muffle sound.

He also mentioned switching third graders to second lunch to lower the number of students in the first lunch. Currently, 85 students grades K-3 eat lunch first, followed by 48 4-6th graders. Moving the third graders to the second lunch would even out the numbers.

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The school is still having problems with humidity, so Kurle reached out to Control Technology and Solutions Group for possible solutions.

The group, which has given the school multiple estimates on maintenance and repairs, suggested a tunnel steam system replacement in which steam would no longer flow through the tunnel system.

Kurle referred to the project, which would cost $526,758, as an “expensive band-aid,” given that it would not completely solve the problem.

The proposal states: “This facility improvement measure will not replace any piping above the first floor and is intended to help the overall condition of excessive humidity on the third floor due to tunnel steam leaks, but will not remedy issues due to steam piping or condensate leaks on the second and third floors of the facility.”

To fix the problem would be costly. The off-the-cuff estimate Kurle received was about $5 million.

Kurle shared with the board an email he received from the group’s account manager, Mark Bucholz: “It was mentioned by Kris that ideally, we would convert from steam to hot water boiler, hot water piping, hot water circulating pumps and unit ventilators capable of providing required air flow for air quality and dehumidification controls (air conditioning).”

Kurle did not give the board a recommendation either way. Due to the price and it not being a complete solution, the board opted not to approve the tunnel steam system replacement. Price kept them from seeking the complete solution, as well.

The district has been considering options to build a new school. The newest of the aging structures is nearly 40 years old; the oldest, nearly 80.

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As previously reported by The Press, the district hired Short, Elliott, Hendrickson Inc., or SEH, in April to help explore options for funding a new school project. SEH has scheduled the first Building Design Committee meeting for Nov. 13 in the basement of Belfield’s Choice Financial Bank. The committee consists of two board members, four faculty members, two parents, two students and the superintendent.

In other news, Kurle said the staff expressed concerns about overcrowding in the lower elementary grades. There are 21 students in kindergarten and 24 in first grade.

The school is considering hiring an additional elementary teacher to split first graders into two classes; however, if first grade is split, they may not have a classroom for the added class. The school may have to rent space from the church, as it has done in the past.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Kayla Henson is a former Dickinson Press reporter.
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