T he walls are unfinished and plywood covers some windows, but members of the Hastings Board of Education saw how the renovation of the Morton Building is coming together.

Trent Kelly, HPS director of technology and operations, led a tour of Morton on Oct. 7 before the school board work session.

Kelly said after the meeting that the Morton project still has a planned turnover date of April 4, 2022.

The $5.3 million Carmichael Construction remodel of the former Morton Elementary building included the addition of a couple rooms.

How exactly those rooms will be used hasn’t been determined yet.

“Whatever Kandace decides,” Kelly said, with a nod to Kandace Garwood, HPS director of special education.

Superintendent Jeff Schneider said no matter how much extra space has been added with district building renovations, there always could be more.

“Every building we’ve maxed out, capacity-wise, from day one, and a year later we’re out of room,” he said.

The first floor of the building will be a preschool, the Morton Early Learning Center, and have an entrance on Baltimore Avenue. The second floor will be the district office and have an entrance on the west side of the building.

The two facilities each will have their own addresses.

Also during the work session, Kelly reviewed with the board the 10th, 11th and 12th overall change orders for the remodel, totaling $3,991.

“I do think it was good that you guys see what we’re doing,” Kelly said during the meeting. “I feel very comfortable. I think this was our 12th change order, which is pretty darn good, I think, especially on a remodel. I’ve been very happy working with Carmichael on that.”

Also during the work session, Schneider updated board members on a survey looking at girls wrestling. That was a request the district received because the Nebraska School Activities Association is beginning to sanction girls wrestling.

Of sixth- through 11th-grade girls surveyed, 36 responded they didn’t have any interest in wrestling, 35 responded they would like to know more about it if the opportunity was available, and 25 stated they were interested.

“Given this information, we will pursue a couple possibilities and bring it back to you for discussion,” he said. “I think the tough thing about this is when you’re surveying middle school students they may not realize ‘I want to wrestle, but I also want to play basketball or I also want to swim.’ Those are the same season.”

Schneider also provided an update on the school’s return to learn policy.

Board members voted 6-2 Sept. 13 in support of a conditional mask mandate that will take effect when there is a 12% illness rate over a three-day period at any of the district’s seven schools.

The district hasn’t hit the 12% threshold at any building.

“I will tell you, in terms of cases, knock on wood, this has been our best week since August,” Schneider said.

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