The Ballard County Board of Education office has moved to remodeled office space inside the Ballard County Career and Technical Center. The members used the new, larger board room for its Feb. 1 meeting.
Until this move, the board office had been located in the same converted private residence since 1972. Moving out of the old house was first discussed in the long range facility plan in 2015. Architects and engineers involved in that process suggested not spending additional money in renovations there; the plan called for construction of a new 7,331 square-foot facility, at a cost of almost $1.64 million.
“The old office really did start out as a house,” said Dr. Casey Allen, Ballard superintendent. “Over time, rooms, bathrooms, other fixtures were improved, but it was never meant to be an office for 10 people.”
Although the work of those in the in the central office supports students, families and teachers in many ways, board of education members didn’t want to spend any more than necessary on offices. Dr. Allen said they didn’t want the community to think they were spending money on adults that could have gone directly to student expenses like instruction or transportation.
“They were trying to be good stewards of public money,” Dr. Allen continued. “So they wanted to look at other options.”
In 2017, Ballard County Preschool and Head Start moved from its location in LaCenter to occupy some unused classroom space at Ballard County Elementary School. Although it was a big change for students and staff alike, the newly renovated space, having all district students on the same campus, and the benefits of collaborative instruction won people over.
Architects and engineers were called in again to look at the vacant space that BCPS had left. However, renovation costs still came in over $1 million, Dr. Allen said. “There also were the other considerations: It moved administrators off-campus, so it would take longer to respond to an issue; school resource officers would have to leave campus if they were going to patrol around the board office; and it decreased convenience for families and staff who could quickly get to the board office without leaving campus.”
Meanwhile, the mechanical systems in the Career and Technical Center were changed out in 2016 – replacing equipment that was part of the building’s original construction in 1978, said Facilities Director Darrell Sullivan. The roof was replaced by insurance after storm damage in 2017. As part of a guaranteed energy savings contract, lighting and HVAC equipment underwent high-efficiency upgrades in 2020, along with other areas on campus. The district has seen an across-the-board savings of 40 percent in energy costs overall, Sullivan said.
There was an empty shop and two unused classrooms in the CTC building. Architects and engineers were called back one more time, to look at the feasibility of moving the central offices to the school building, and replicate the success of the preschool move.
“By taking advantage of unused space and doing some targeted renovations, we have been able to secure 3,710 square feet in new office and support space, as well as 3,593 square feet of renovated administrative and classroom areas,” said Sullivan. There are new board and small conference rooms, six new offices, two vaults, a kitchen/workroom, two accessible bathrooms, and a new classroom. Other renovated areas include front lobby, office, and vault space.
“The total cost was $895,145, including architect fees, and all required printing, advertising and other costs – just about 55 percent of the original construction estimate,” Sullivan continued. He added that there had not been a final decision on disposition of the old office, since it serves as a phone and internet hub for Ballard County Elementary School.
After two full weeks at the new location, Dr. Allen said the move had gone well. “The biggest adjustment is being in a space where we co-exist with students every day. We were used to having a little less structure to our days, but it is really great to see the kids. It helps us remember what we’re really working for,” he said.
While an open house isn’t really possible with current virus restrictions, Dr. Allen said the media class was working on a virtual tour that would be posted soon to various web and social media sites.