Park Elementary came one step closer to upcoming renovations after the Hutchinson School Board approved design developments last week.

A building layout presented by LHB senior architect Jonathan Pettigrew last week was similar to one presented to board members this past October, but some changes were noteworthy. A staircase planned for the building’s north side was drafted to be smaller than previously considered. It will replace a portion of the footprint of the current north wing, which was built in 1956. The addition will be removed to better size the building to serve grades four and five; Grades two and three are moving to the new two-floor addition under construction at West Elementary.

The project now includes space for a Level 4 emotional and behavioral support program on the lower floor.

“That’s kind of a big step for the district to take that on and bring that in,” Pettigrew said, “and we’ve, I think, found a good home for that in the lower level of park.”

Hutchinson Public Schools Superintendent Daron VanderHeiden said it will likely take time to use the space as staffing and programming are organized.

“Our main goal is to really be able to place our students that do come up with more of these behavior needs,” said Karen Lerfald, director of special services at the school district. “And also offer some opportunity for surrounding districts to send students our direction as well, so they don’t have as long on a bus ride. Many of our Setting 4 programs are quite a distance away.”

She said there may be opportunities for students in that program to use Park Elementary’s media center, cafeteria or specialist rooms, but most academics will take place within the program’s suites.

The plans call for a freezer on the bottom floor to be moved, and for the addition of a dry storage room. They also call for fewer mechanical units.

Outside, the site plan hasn’t changed much since last year. The plan is to bring the bus loading area off city streets and closer to the school, while maintaining playground access. It also calls for a reduction in the amount of east sidewalks and fixes to sewer lines.

Inside the building, which was constructed in 1938, features such as the woodwork and built-in cabinets, the tile and terrazzo in the long corridors, and the old auditorium will remain, according to site plans. Windows, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, electrical systems, technology, windows and roofing will all be addressed in the renovations in an effort to modernize the school’s learning opportunities and address overheating problems in the building.

In addition to securing eight classrooms for fourth and fifth grade, plans include varied spaces for smaller groups, a special gathering area at the media center, and specialty areas for art, music and hands-on technology learning.

The project, including the work at West Elementary, is on budget with a slight surplus. The $35.62 million undertaking was approved by voters in a 2019 bond referendum. Because the project includes so much renovation at Park Elementary, that portion is more likely to have unforeseen costs. As a result, a large contingency will be maintained.

Construction at West Elementary is underway with footings and foundations largely complete, and structural steel mostly in place. Precast wall panels are due on site this week.

Design construction documents for Park Elementary are expected to be finalized through March. There will then be a delay as the district awaits the right window to seek bids, and receive the most favorable options as contractors look to line up work for 2022. Bids are expected to go out in autumn for Park Elementary.

Construction at West Elementary will continue through autumn. Park Elementary construction is expected to start in January, 2022, and finish that autumn.