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Decisions and discussions at new school steering committee meeting

The Austin Public Schools' new intermediate school will not include a large multi-use space in the building, other than a traditional cafeteria and gymnasium, a steering committee has decided.

On Wednesday the committee decided against having either a cafetorium, auditeria or gymatorium. These types of spaces combine, in some way, a room that could be used as a cafeteria, auditorium and/or gymnasium.

The group came to agreements on a few items that needed to be determined so the design process could continue to move forward.

"It's all about finalizing as much as we can," said David Maroney, of ATS&R Planners/Architects/Engineers in Minneapolis. He led the committee at its fourth meeting through the latest programming plans, possible building site layouts and the overall discussion Wednesday at the Hormel Historic Home.

Throughout it all, the parameters of the new building have remained the same. The school will be just east of Ellis Middle School. The building will have a science, technology, engineering, arts and math focus for 884 students and will be 112,250 square feet. Construction dollars for the school were included in the $28.9 million bond issue voters approved in November.


A cafeteria and gymnasium, separate spaces, are included in the plans.

"Both of which, you can put a lot of people in," Maroney said, speaking to holding various events in those large spaces.

Committee members weighed the pros and cons of having a cafetorium. They considered how often it would be used as a performance space throughout the year for the fifth- and sixth-graders. There's also seating and the logistics of setting up the room with time constraints during the school day.

Some said that if they need to use a performance space for plays or concerts, for example, they could go to nearby Ellis or Austin High School.

"I don't think we need a performance space," said Phil Burkhart, orchestra teacher at Ellis. "It's cool, but I just think it's not necessary."

Other decisions

• Staff planning: Each of the six learning communities (which contain classrooms and science labs) will have collaborative areas for staff. "It's their home base," Maroney said.

• Classroom size: Rooms will be 900 square feet, which is suggested by the Minnesota Department of Education.


• Media center/virtual learning resource center: In addition to the media center in the building, learning communities will also have areas with computers and spaces for students to work in a resource area.

• Tennis courts: Five tennis courts currently at Ellis will need to be removed to make room for the new school building. Four courts will be replaced because of the space needed for both varsity and junior varsity events in the district. The location is not known yet. "We're going to find the right location for it," Maroney said.

• Computer labs: Three labs will be in the school, but the equivalent of three more labs will be in the virtual learning resource centers. The building will also be wireless.

• Music department: The new school will have three rooms, one each for orchestra, band and a general music room.

The steering committee will have one more meeting Feb. 8 to finalize the design phase of the project.

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