BEATRICE – The Beatrice Public Schools Wednesday night began a month-long process of getting public input on facility needs in the district. But, only about twenty people attended the first of four Wednesday night meetings to aid the district in meeting future needs.
Following two bond issue defeats for a new elementary school, facility issues remain. Elementary buildings are at, or above student capacity…in a district where total enrollment has been flat, or declining, the past several years.
Architect and Planner Pat Phelan with the DLR Group, says there are still issues to address at the elementary buildings, which were constructed in 1955.
:35 “communications, data”
Phelan says there is a larger than typical square foot space, per student, at the elementary level… a signal of inefficiency and duplication under a system that uses several buildings.
Beatrice High School, now about twenty years old, is what Phelan calls “the flagship” for education in Beatrice. He says even that newer building is facing some needs, along with the need for outdoor athletic space for sports such as baseball, softball and tennis.
Phelan says the Beatrice Middle School, formerly the high school, has the most possibilities in terms of renovation.
:48 “easily renovated”
Of immediate need in the district, is what to do with an aging 30,000 square foot maintenance facility, next to Athletic Park.
:13 “replace it”
One option is to build a new maintenance facility on land the district owns, next to the high school.
Wednesday night’s first community meeting held at the BHS Commons area was shown on Facebook live, where about a half-dozen questions were submitted. One dealt with enrollment of the district. Curriculum Director Jackie Nielsen said enrollment has been dropping slightly, over the past ten years. It currently totals about 1,900 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Adding in preschool enrollment, the figure is about 2,100. She expects K-through-12 enrollment will plateau around 1,800 to 1,900 students in the coming years.
Phelan said a safety concern in the district is security, at entrance points to school buildings. The design of the older buildings doesn’t allow for adequate monitoring of people coming into the schools.
School officials and the architect say that needed improvements will require bond issue funding, since the district’s building fund financed by a two-cent levy is too small to allow the district to keep up with facility needs.
The next community input meeting will be next Wednesday night at seven, at the Beatrice Middle School media center.