East Sac County
Renovation and consolidation
SAC CITY — Facing enrollment challenges, East Sac County School District is looking to further consolidate its building usage as it renovates aging facilities in 2021.
“We’ve been in a transition districtwide for facilities,” said Superintendent Jeff Kruse.
The district, which went from occupying four buildings in the last school year to three buildings this year when it closed an elementary school in Wall Lake, will be looking to further consolidate to two buildings with added expansions on existing facilities.
East Sac is currently in the process of soliciting construction bids to improve facilities at the elementary school in Sac City and the high school in Lake View. Through consolidation, the district’s middle school building in Sac City would be closed. Once bids, due Feb. 18, are submitted, the district will meet to decide whether to accept one. If accepted, construction could start this spring with an anticipated completion in the fall of 2022.
Kruse said the result would place pre-K through sixth grade in Sac City, while junior and senior high students would go to school in Lake View.
“Declining enrollment made us look at our facility needs more thoroughly,” Kruse said. “It’s just a matter of economics, being more efficient and being in two buildings as opposed to three.”
Kruse, in his second year as a superintendent, said enrollment has declined each year during his tenure. Projections show it will stabilize soon, though the district has lost over 50 students for the last two years. In a district of approximately 850 students in all grades, the concern resembles challenges many rural districts face with trends of depopulation.
Kruse said future decreases are expected to be more manageable.
Architect estimates for the renovation estimate the project will cost at least $9 million, but the superintendent said updates are long overdue for the buildings that have seen little change in decades. The last major construction for the district was in the 1980s.
New additions onto the 1980-built elementary school in Sac City will bring in six new classrooms in addition to renovation of the current building. At the high school, a new kitchen commons area and seven classrooms will be added. The district will also use the project to make buildings more compliant for those with disabilities, adding features like an elevator.
The high school’s kitchen commons area is currently in an older part of the building that requires a lot of traffic maneuvering at lunch time. The district also hopes to remove a three-story portion of the high school.
“(The project) will help bring our facilities more into the 21st century,” said Kruse. “Most of our buildings (currently) aren’t air conditioned, so we’ll be able to add that.”
Though consolidation is usually a difficult transition for school districts, Kruse said the plan helps address building issues that have lingered for a number of years while simultaneously creating long-term plans to address the educational and financial needs of the district.
“I’m encouraged by the overall support,” he said. “It’s always tough when you close a building, but overall (the district has) been supportive. There’s no doubt it’s difficult for a community to lose a (school) building.”
Even though some buildings may no longer be in use, he said the school’s presence will remain in the communities the district serves.
And while being in just three buildings was a challenge in itself during the pandemic, as social distancing became a necessity, Kruse thanked school faculty and the community for its efforts in helping the district survive through the first semester of the 2020-21 school year.
“We made the best of a tough situation,” he said. “Teachers adapted, but in the end, students were self-disciplined to complete work on their days (in distanced learning instruction.) That did prove to be challenging to students. For me personally, it was just more proof that teaching face-to-face is the best method to meet the needs of students.”
Most of the school’s last semester was conducted in person, with a few weeks on a hybrid model in November due to high COVID-19 case numbers and student absences during quarantines.