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Sioux City school district moves forward with $1.89M plan for virtual academy space

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SIOUX CITY -- The construction of the Sioux City school district's VIBE Academy is estimated to cost $1.89 million, with a possible completion in August 2022.

School board members were presented plans for the construction of the virtual academy on the second floor of the downtown Educational Services Center.

FEH Design of Sioux City estimated the construction to cost $1.48 million. Additional costs include $365,380.53 for furnishings and $50,000 for building security and IT. Director of operations and maintenance Tim Paul said there is a 13.5 percent increase in furnishing that is not calculated due to inflation.

Currently, the virtual academy teachers are housed on the fourth floor of the Ho-Chunk Centre. To continue leasing that space for 10 years would cost the district $1.49 million, according to school board documents.

Matt Basye with FEH presented the proposed layouts to the board. Around 14,000 square feet of the second floor will be used for the VIBE Academy. The space will include training rooms, open layout for around 40 instructors, specialty rooms – such as counseling, music, art and physical education - a break room and work room.

Basye said his team didn’t want it to look like a call center. More windows will be added for natural light and most of the division will be through furniture. Basye said currently there is an example display of the layout with the proposed headsets and microphones at the current career academy for teachers to try out.

Elementary and secondary school emergency relief III funding will be used to construct the space. The ESSER funding is currently being used to pay for the present space and can only be used through 2024.

A survey done by board members, teachers and community members ranked construction of the space as low priority, while administration ranked it as the number one priority.

A public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. on Nov. 22 at the Educational Service Center to discuss the potential construction.

Brenda Burnight, a teacher at VIBE Academy, said the staff moved into the Ho-Chunk Centre just days before the year started.

“It was very difficult for us, but we made it work,” she said.

She said the one-time ESSER funding should be spent on something the district owns, instead of on rent for the Ho-Chunk space. 

The VIBE Academy was approved by the state's Department of Education in February. Currently there are 510 students enrolled in the academy and 25 teachers.

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