Renovation work on Maize school is on track

MAIZE — Months after announcing that cuts in state education funding would delay its opening, administrators say the renovation of Vermillion Primary School is on track for 2012-13.

The renovation is the last major component of a $59 million bond issue taxpayers approved in 2007. When the work is complete, Vermillion will move from serving students in preschool, kindergarten and first grade to serving students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

After the bond issue passed in 2007, the district was able to secure several bids that were lower than originally estimated, superintendent Doug Powers said.

That allowed the district to move up the deadline for some projects, including Vermillion. The district changed course and planned to open Vermillion a year early, in time for the start of classes next fall.

But state aid cuts forced administrators in January to delay the Vermillion project, Powers said, and move back to the original construction estimates.

No other delays are expected, Powers said.

The district is in the beginning stages of construction at Vermillion, building the school's Federal Emergency Management Agency-approved storm shelter.

The students who attended Vermillion last year are now attending Maize Elementary.

When the Vermillion renovation is complete, the district will have five elementary schools, which will feed into specific middle schools.

The feeder school plan calls for Vermillion Primary, Maize Elementary and Pray-Woodman Elementary students to attend Maize Middle School and Maize High School.

Maize Central and Maize South Elementary students will attend Maize South Middle School and Maize South High.

The feeder plan was created to deal with the district's growing enrollment. According to the district, enrollment has gone from about 4,300 students in 1995 to about 6,381 students last year.

The delay at Vermillion came in response to state education cuts that left Maize schools with about $2.6 million less than expected for the 2009-10 school year.

"We in the district didn't want to get to the point where we didn't have cash reserves," Powers said. "We had to ask, 'Do you want to spend those dollars, not knowing what the future holds?' "

Powers said the district has about a $5 million reserve.

The district also cut spending in 2009-10 by about $2.8 million, Powers said. That included eliminating out-of-state travel, reducing field trips and leaving a few staff positions unfilled.