School of the Osage officials are moving forward with plans to renovate and add on to the old Heritage building

Rooted in the School of the Osage’s recently adopted vision statement ― The Osage Way ― is tradition. Capturing and maintaining the school district’s heritage has been fundamental to the board of education as it charts a course.

Now, as the school board looks to solve its crowding problem at Mills Elementary School, tradition once again is at the forefront.

The board of education has voted to move forward with plans to renovate and expand The Heritage Building in Lake Ozark to house not only students in grades K-2, but also preschool, Head Start and the administration. The original section of the building is 60 years old, but school officials say it carries architecture and character that will be blended into a renovated facility.

Ittner Architects of St. Louis has met with the board several times, including the regular October meeting, to update school officials on preliminary plans for the Heritage Building. Ittner designed the new Osage Middle School on the Highway 42 campus.

A refined set of plans will be presented at the December board meeting and school district voters will be asked in April to approve a bond issue. Specific costs and tax levy information will be available after that, but the preliminary estimate is $21 million.

Assistant Superintendent Tony Hermann, who oversees the district’s facilities, was quick to point out that the cost to renovate the Heritage building is about $6 million less than building an all-new facility of like size and function.

“The Osage community is very tradition-based, and we’re looking at preserving the past and moving the kids forward to success through a modern facility,” Hermann explained. “To many people, the Heritage Building is more than a building, and the board recognizes that.”

He said preserving the Heritage Building was part of a promise the board made to district patrons when the Middle School bond issue was approved.

The concept

The Heritage Building is a hodge-podge of additions stretching from 1933 when the School of the Osage was built until the most recent addition in the 1960s.

The renovated building will provide a more open concept with individual hallways on each of the three floors tying in classrooms, resource rooms and administration. Hermann said when the building is finished, it will appear closer to the original design than it is now, including period lighting, woodwork and doors.

“We’ll blend the additions into the original time period,” he explained.

The building is currently two stories, with a third story planned on the backside of the middle section of the existing facility and below view from the parking lot. In addition to campus-wide hallways that tie the building together, an elevator will service the upper floors.

The renovation and the addition of a third floor will result in eight classrooms per grade ― K-2 ― or 24 classrooms. With the renovation of the existing building, two more classrooms per grade can be accommodated. There is room on the backside of the building for expansion if necessary.

The renovated building will accommodate 700 to 750 students. As of late October, the K-2 enrollment at Mills Elementary was 418 students, leaving the district room for anticipated growth.

Size and cost

The existing Heritage Building is 75,000 square feet. The addition will be 49,000 square feet for a total square footage of 124,000. The current Mills Elementary is 60,000 square feet.

Estimated cost to renovate and add to the Heritage Building is $21 million, or about $170 per square foot.

Hermann said the option of building an entirely new facility with 124,000 square feet is $27 million, or $6 million more than the current plan, at an approximate cost of $217 per square foot.

“This is a great chance to blend the past with the future,” Hermann said. “It’s about our community and school taking care of the next generation. That’s our No. 1 priority.”