Pawnee Heights, USD #496 is making plans to purchase and renovate the vacated Rozel United Methodist Church into an Early Childhood Education Center. This document will explain the process as well as the rationale for the project.
In 2010 the district leased modular classrooms to temporarily accommodate elementary classes in Rozel. These rooms are not attached to the main building and do not have running water or restroom facilities. Those modular classrooms are still in use and the monthly lease has grown from $800 per month to $1,632. We are now paying twice as much for an older facility! Additionally, Pawnee Heights now offers a preschool program which, due to a lack of space, meets in Burdett. Those students need to be located with the rest of the student body, not in an isolated location with no support services.
When the Methodist Church building became available in 2021, the board chose to make an offer to purchase it. The offer of $5000 was accepted by the Great Plains United Methodist Conference in November and is contingent upon all aspects of the process being approved. This means that if the district receives approval for all facets of the project, including financing and various governmental agency approval, we will purchase the property for $5000. If approval is not granted, we will not purchase the property.
Converting the church into a school will require extensive modifications. Creating an Early Childhood Center for Preschool, Kindergarten, First and Second grades will require the fewest modifications, and seems to make the most sense for our district. Relocating those classes from the main building will allow the modular to be removed, while keeping all students located within a few blocks of each other. Additionally, locker room and office space will be reclaimed in the main building by moving the Technology and District Offices to the new location.
Although the building is very inexpensive, the cost of renovating it will be significant. However, this is the least expensive option available. Remodeling the building at Burdett is estimated to cost $1,155,000, which is 44% more than the projected cost of renovating the church. The estimate for new construction is $1,545,000. Additionally, relocating students to Burdett would require additional staffing expenses that will not be required if all students remain in Rozel. Students at the new Early Childhood Educational Center will still eat lunch in the main building and receive classes such as PE and Music similarly to the way they currently receive them.
The total cost of the project is estimated to be approximately $650,000. Although the district does have slightly more than that amount in Capital Outlay and Contingency Reserve funds, it is not practical to allocate all of it to the project. Doing so would leave us without any funds for emergencies, facility upgrades, or maintenance in the near future. For instance, a new school bus can cost nearly $100,000. There are other resources that may be used on the project. For example, our current lease on the modular classrooms is nearly $20,000 annually. That money will pay a substantial amount of the monthly payment on a lease purchase agreement for the Early Childhood Center. There are also federal Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds the district may utilize for portions of the project. Being very conservative and using “worst case” estimates the board adopted a resolution to not exceed borrowing $600,000 on the project, with a desire to borrow closer to $500,000.
The adopted resolution will be published in The Tiller and Toiler on January 20th and 27th. Public community meetings have been scheduled for 7:00pm on Wednesday, February 16th and Thursday, February 17th at the school in Rozel. Everyone is invited to see the plans and ask questions about the project.