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    Darin Augustine, vice president of SJCF Architects, is designing a new school construction project in Iola. REGISTER FILE PHOTO

Soil report comes back clean

Study clears way for new school site
The Iola Register

School board members were all smiles Monday evening after hearing the geo-tech report concerning land at Kentucky and Monroe streets, targeted as the site of a new elementary school.

Going into the meeting, the board knew the west part of the land could not support a building, so they decided to put a parking lot in that spot. Still, concerns remained about land to the east, where the school likely would be built. 

That land is more than suitable, a report shows. In fact, the district can now apply funds they had reserved for digging up the site and building it back up, to put toward the building itself.

“This was a substantial win for our citizens. It is a huge win for our district to be able to put the school where the patrons wanted it,” USD 257 Board of Education President Dan Willis said following the meeting. 

“Almost 65 percent wanted it there in that spot. Some people probably thought we were nutty that the school district wanted to put a school where a hospital couldn’t build. But it was more stability issues than it was environmental. And we have always known that we wanted to put a parking lot where they wanted to put the hospital. The best seven acres of the 14 is where the school is going to be built.”

The land was once the site of an iron works foundry and zinc smelting factory, leading to concerns the soil was contaminated with lead. The Environmental Protection Agency, through Veterans Worldwide, is working to remediate contaminated land throughout Iola.


USD 257 school board members Jerad Larkey, from left, Nancy Toland and Mary Apt. REGISTER FILE PHOTO


At the proposed school site, there are a few areas that will have to be remediated, but those spots will only have to be dug about two to three feet, according to SJFC project manager Darin Augustine.

And the EPA should cover costs associated with remediation. The site will be remediated between now and March 2020. The district plans to break ground on the project in the spring.

Board members agreed to purchase four additional acres at 1520 E Monroe for $250,000 for the new school. Some property already has been purchased.

“The money that we don’t have to put into the ground, we can now put above the ground into our building. That’s what was making us all smile. You only get to build a building once in your life. It had been 70 years since they had built a new grade school in Iola,” Willis said.

Augustine said the land where the school is expected to be built is in great condition.

“The site where the building is going to be, there are really no issues there. We will have to build that up two feet, but we would have to do that anyway, because it is a pretty flat stretch of land,” Augustine said. “The report on the land was much better than I ever expected it could be.”

Since the bond passed, Augustine has been working with a group of teachers who are touring other schools, trying to find out their wants and needs. They are supposed to meet again Thursday, and he will present schematic renderings at the first board meeting of November.

The board also agreed to renew its commitment to the Iola Neighborhood Revitalization Plan.



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