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Fisher: No timeline for vote on high school renovations

Charles City school superintendent talked to members of the Charles City Lions Club at their meeting Friday. (Press photo James Grob.)
Charles City school superintendent talked to members of the Charles City Lions Club at their meeting Friday. (Press photo James Grob.)
By James Grob,

A public vote on renovations to Charles City High School isn’t likely to happen this year.

“At this time we do not have a vote scheduled, and we’re not even talking about dates yet,” Charles City Superintendent of Schools Mike Fisher said Friday. “We don’t want to isolate just one thing. We want to look at where we are comprehensively as a district.”

The school district has been looking into a modernization plan for the high school since the new middle school was completed.

In December 2017, architects had presented a new, two-story concept of what the high school’s floor plan could look like under a $22 million to $23 million renovation budget. In February and March, the district consulted with teachers, coaches and community members regarding the plan, and heard requested additions and alterations.

As with most public projects financed by selling bonds, the plan would require a 60 percent majority voter approval to pass.

There had been discussion at that time about bringing the plan to a public vote by the end of 2018. That appears to be on the back-burner now.

“There is no timeline, there is only a sequence. We’re not going to rush things, we want to move as fast as safely possible,” said Fisher, who took over as district superintendent this past summer. “We want to make sure everyone has the full vision of what’s going on.”

Fisher said a facilities assessment and the future of the North Grand Building are top priorities for the district, before the high school renovations.

“That being said, we do know there will obviously have to be renovations at the high school in the future, but we’re going to wait for some more of that information to come in,” he said.

In August, the Charles City Community School District Board of Education unanimously approved a facility assessment agreement with Estes Construction.

Estes will perform an assessment of the mechanical, electrical and plumbing facilities in all school buildings, the athletic stadium and the transportation center. The basic cost is $9,500 with $3,000 in possible add-ons.

“I’m a big ‘first things first’ person,” Fisher said. “We are finishing the facility assessment with Estes, which will go on through this fall.”

Fisher spoke at the Charles City Lions Club meeting on Friday afternoon, and hinted that there may be some news about the North Grand Building in the coming weeks.

“There are no developments yet for the public, but I will say we’re excited about the many meetings we’ve been having,” he said. “We’re having several meetings a month now with different developers that are very interested in learning more about the facility, sharing plans and what could be possible.”

The district has taken a more active role on the North Grand Building since Fisher officially began work in July. Tours of the building increased and the district has communicated with developers and introduced them to possible community partners who may be interested in having a role in redevelopment.

The building, at 500 N. Grand Ave., is listed as the “Charles City Junior-Senior High School” on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1932 and first served as the Charles City High School before becoming first a junior high school then a middle school after a new high school was built in the 1960s.

It stopped serving as general purpose classrooms when the new middle school opened two years ago, and currently contains the school district’s business office, superintendent’s office and community engagement office, among other things.

A previous agreement with developers in June of 2017 fell through, and the former middle school has remained district property.

Fisher took the opportunity Friday to introduce himself to Lions Club members who haven’t yet met him, and presented them with biographical information. He also explained his management style and his philosophies about education.

“We have to have core values,” Fisher told the Lions Club members. “Core values are our DNA — if you cut Charles City, we’re going to bleed our core values.”

He said that the biggest core value is to do what’s best for all kids.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’ve been or what you’ve done,” he said. “We’re going to make sure you learn and we take care of you as a human being. These are not just future employees, they are future husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, mothers and neighbors. We know we’re not going to bat 1,000, but at least we’re going to try.”

Fisher previously served as principal at Hoover Middle School in Waterloo and replaced Dan Cox, who had been superintendent in Charles City for five years. Cox accepted a position as chief administrator of the Northwest Area Education Agency, based in Sioux City.

Fisher said he felt a calling to Charles City.

“I was happy as a clam at Hoover, I probably could have retired there. But you follow your faith, and my faith brought me here,” he said.

Fisher, who grew up in Oskaloosa, was a band teacher before he became an administrator. He studied music at Simpson college, and his teaching career began in the West Marshall School District.