John Cline School: Cumulative trauma adds to district’s dilemma

One of numerous areas throughout the school building where the floor has settled in inconsistent areas, common signs that the foundation has moved or sustained damage. Without proper intervention, the foundation will continue to deteriorate. (Driftless Multimedia photo by Denise Lana)

By Denise Lana,

One of numerous areas throughout the school building where the floor has settled in inconsistent areas, common signs that the foundation has moved or sustained damage. Without proper intervention, the foundation will continue to deteriorate. (Driftless Multimedia photo by Denise Lana)

The recent sale of land by the City of Decorah to Decorah Community School District is part of a proposed plan for a new elementary school – a plan that has been nearly two decades in the making. John Cline Elementary School (JCE), which was designed by renowned local architect Charles Altfillisch in 1962, has been the focus of much contention among residents. Many want a new school, while others question why the current building can’t be renovated, saving millions in taxpayer money. 

Assessment reveals collective issues

In a facility assessment performed on JCE in 2013, numerous issues with the school were observed and documented. According to the report, the school has no single glaring mortal wound wrapped in a tidy bow. The 60-year-old structure has, instead, suffered gradual, cumulative trauma. 

Decorah Community School District Superintendent Tim Cronin explained that the school was built quickly after one-room schoolhouses were closed down. 

“The community school district had to have a building, and that’s why they built this building,” Cronin explained about JCE. “I would argue this school’s construction is less than our older buildings, the older ones were just built better.” 

Keeping that in mind, it might seem the school was behind the power curve from its inception. Constructed in 1962 with annexes added in 1991, the concrete-block-and-brick-veneer structure is thought to be nearly uninsulated in the original portions of the building. 

The site surrounding the school was noted in the assessment to be “one of the most unsafe environments in the district,” citing immediate attention due to inadequate parking, lack of lanes for bus and parent pick-up, and the heavy mixture of town traffic, high school student traffic, parents, teachers and elementary school students. 

The absence of a separate bus lane adds to the congestion on Claiborne Drive on the north side of the site at the drop-off lane entry point. Parents can be seen lined up for over a block to get into the site for pick-up time, affecting traffic coming and going from the high school facility directly north.

As explained by JCE Principal Rick Varney, “It’s dangerous. We’ve controlled it as best we can and we have a pretty good drop-off and pick-up system, but it’s not ideal.”

Traffic and student safety are huge priorities, especially with the possible new school construction, as Cronin elaborated, “We are doing anything and everything we can to separate our traffic and make it safer for our kids and families. We’ve had discussions about having the parking lot being a lot longer, and maybe at the end could be the drop-off and pick-up, and that would get the kids off the street and away from the rest of the drive.”

Ponding on the playground

Climate control

The gym and kitchen

Clogged sewer lines

Emergency, security, safety and space

Asbestos and more

Full article and photos in the January 4 Decorah Public Opinion Newspaper.

 

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