As one school year ends, preparations for the next school year begin. While still primarily in the planning stages, the Tekamah-Herman Board of Education has several projects underway for the new academic year. They discussed these ideas at their meeting June 8.

Perhaps the largest plan is for a new school building. Architect Bob Soukup with Carlson West Povondra Architects of Omaha presented the board members with a variety of concepts for the exterior of that building.

No final decisions were made about the appearance, but the board did resolve to go with precast concrete for the construction. Soukup said the benefits of precast were cost savings, time savings and energy efficiency.

Precast is good with insulation and fits with the newest energy codes, he said. The ability to cure the concrete in a controlled environment, then ship to the site reduces the effects of the weather on construction time.

Soukup said as things stand, construction should begin by this winter. The exterior of the new gym may take as few as two weeks to construct, he said.

A representative from Hausmann Construction of Lincoln was also on hand at the meeting. If the designs are verified by August, the crews would be breaking ground in September, he said. That strategy includes getting NPPD and Black Hills going prior to that.

In addition to a new school building, the district is considering a new school configuration. The middle school concept was introduced for deliberation.

“It’s a good time to discuss this,” Superintendent Dan Gross said. “Many larger districts have already adapted to this concept.”

The idea is to separate students into elementary, middle school and high school tiers. An example would be first through fifth grades would be elementary; sixth through eighth grades would be middle school; and ninth through twelfth would be high school.

It breaks up the classes into more manageable groups and helps with scheduling of teachers, Gross said. Also, some teachers have middle school endorsements.

Hopefully, there will be students to occupy the new school building as usual in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Gross said the administration is working on a re-opening plan. At the same time though, they are working on a virtual learning plan; a contingency in case health concerns should manifest.

“Ultimately, each district will make its own decision on re-opening,” Gross said. “If school started today, I don’t see why we couldn’t have 100 percent attendance.”

Part of preparing for the new school year, regardless of how things go, is acquiring new computers. The board voted to approve the purchase of 80 new iPads and cases for the elementary students. The new computers, combined with those down-cycled from previous years, should ensure each student has an iPad. The cost for the new computers will come to about $25-30,000, Gross said.

In other school business:

—An in-person graduation for the Class of 2020 is scheduled for Aug. 1;

—The board learned that math teacher and Academic Decathlon coach Kathy Hladky will be retiring effective immediately.

—Hired Kerri Strode as a new special education teacher.

—Designated L & S Construction to replace the concrete in the parking area on the north side of the school. It should be completed by the end of the month, Gross said.

—Accepted a bid from Lund Pest Control of Tekamah to provide service for the new school year. Gross said that Lund was reliable, thorough and did a good job.

Jon Burleson is the Midwest Messenger reporter, based out of eastern Nebraska. Reach him at jon.burleson@lee.net.