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Planning panel permits new schools

A couple people expressed concerns -- citing a loss of privacy, the loss of a view, and traffic concerns about the proposed construction of Cooper Elementary School's replacement during a public hearing this week.

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Superior’s Plan Commission approves special use permits to replace Cooper Elementary School. The City Council considers the permits, for Cooper and Superior High School when it meets Oct. 4. Telegram file photo

A couple people expressed concerns - citing a loss of privacy, the loss of a view, and traffic concerns about the proposed construction of Cooper Elementary School's replacement during a public hearing this week.

Others expressed appreciation for the new school designed to run parallel to North 17th Street between Wyoming and Missouri avenues, adjacent to the existing school.

Still others questioned why the school district doesn't find a temporary solution for the students and construct the new building in the footprint of the old.

In the end, however, the city's Plan Commission gave preliminary approval to special use permits that would allow the School District of Superior proceed with plans to replace Cooper Elementary School and Superior High School.

No one expressed any concerns about the latter plan, which includes building a three-story academic wing south of the existing gym, band room and performing art center, and razing the circle portion of the school.

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Like the existing Cooper Elementary, the circle will remain for classrooms during new construction.

Kevin Holm of LHB the existing school at the Cooper site drove the design process for the new school in Billings Park. The plan is to fence off the northern end of the school grounds when construction begins in April.

The two-story facility includes about 50 percent more square footage than the existing school with the gymnasium and cafeteria anchored at the northernmost portion of the structure, and wings that sweep slightly southward at either end of the school. Holm said that was done to reduce the shading and shadow effect on neighboring homes.

"We're the property that's just north of where the school is," said David Winek, who lives on Pennsylvania Avenue immediately north of the planned cafeteria and gym area. "When I look at this property, at this design - we have just lost our privacy as far as that goes. We have just lost our southern exposure."

While he was certain it was a "done deal" Winek said it made more sense to him to put the new school on the southern end of the property where the impact wouldn't affect the neighbors. He acknowledged that it would interfere with one wing of the existing structure, but said it doesn't interfere with anyone.

"I don't think there's a school property in the city of Superior with the new schools and with the past schools that have been so close to a residential structure," Winek said. He questioned who would buy his house with the loss of privacy.

Holm said the windows in the gymnasium area are for natural light and the low end of the sill is about 16-feet high, and windows in the academic wing, while low enough for students to look out, those windows face northeast rather than north.

Brian Raygor, who lives a couple blocks away, said he would like to move closer and see his son cross the street to the new school.

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"I'm very excited to see this go up," Raygor said. He said his only concern was parking, which will expand under the plan.

City Councilor Keith Kern, speaking on behalf of a constituent, asked if the school district considered the potential costs for temporary classrooms or other alternatives that would allow the district to build in the footprint of the existing school.

Holm said that wasn't a consideration, but said a similar plan executed in Hutchinson, Minn., to bring in fewer temporary classrooms than would be needed for Cooper's year-long project, for four months, cost about $650,000.

The orientation of the building, which includes a main entrance on the south side of the building, is a sustainable approach that will allow natural day lighting. He said energy and operation costs would increase if the length of the building ran north to south.

Others expressed concerns about traffic in the area, something the city's Public Works Committee has already discussed and plans to address again, said Councilor Esther Dalbec, who serves on both panels.

Plans are to have construction complete by the fall of 2018, and raze the existing elementary school that summer to do landscaping and parking lots.

The Superior City Council considers the special use permits for the new Superior High and Cooper schools when it meets Oct. 4.

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