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Joseph Bodenbach/The Banner-Press 

S.O.S. shortstop Bailey Belt flips the ball to Grady Belt for an out against David City on Friday, June 23 in the Great Plains League Tournament in Shelby.

Expansion proposed for DC Elementary

Changes in education require more space, superintendent says.

The David City Elementary building would grow by nearly 6,000 square feet if a $1.2 million expansion is approved in coming months.

The David City Public Schools Board is set to consider the expansion at its meeting on July 10 at 7 p.m.

Built in 1960, the home of grades K-6 was last expanded with a new gym, new school office and art room facilities before the 2012 school year.

That expansion ended the long tradition of spending part of physical education periods moving students to the high school gym. It also gave students a dedicated art room, so the art instructor didn’t have to move from room to room.

The proposed expansion is intended to provide space that is now lacking for special education, speech pathology, school nurse and other space requirements that have changed over the past decade or so.

Superintendent Chad Denker said the addition would not require an increase in the district's property tax levy.

“We currently levy approximately $1.1 million into the building fund each year so we would pay for the project mainly out of the building fund,” he said. “The addition would start in March of 2018 and be done in August of 2018 in time for the school year - in theory. The cafeteria portion would have to be done in order to serve breakfast and lunch.”

Denker said the building space hasn't kept up with changes in education. DCPS is responsible for all special education services in the district for all children from birth to age 21.

"We are providing many more services than what was occurring when the school was built. For example, we have school psychologists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and early childhood specialists - just to name a few - all working with students to improve the quality of their education. A lot of which was not required when the school was first built," he said. "No one could have imagined needing or using all of those professions in a school system years ago. The program needs of both our regular and special education students are growing and changing and we require more space to make it all happen. This addition will ensure that we have the room we need for the foreseeable future."

Here is a summary of the expansion proposal:

*Expand cafeteria seating by 40-by-24 feet. This will increase the number of students having lunch at one time and end the practice of starting some students' lunches at 10:50 a.m. High school lunch periods would be cut from three to two.

*Add three special education classrooms: Either three 30-by-28-foot rooms or four 30-by-21-feet rooms. Denker said this will free up two current special education classrooms for a guidance office and conference room in one and Title I reading classroom in the other. The space also would involve shuffling some other space needs: Title 1, storage for the backpack program, teacher work rooms, nurse’s office, staff break room, and a new requirement: a space for women who are breastfeeding.

In advance of the expansion, Denker said, the school will have three special education teachers in the elementary to match the needs of the students, but there will be only two classrooms for them.

The potential extra special education classroom would give the para-educators a place to work in small groups while occupational therapists and physical therapists have a place to work with students.

*Add four offices of 15-by-10-feet each and a conference room of 20-by-15 feet.

This would provide space for two speech pathologists, a school psychologist and a special services director. It also moves special education offices away from the noise of the cafeteria.

Further, it puts a second administrator in that building, Denker said. Moving the special services director office from the high school creates a breastfeeding room at the high school. By moving the school psychologist to the elementary, the high school speech pathologist does not have to share an office with school psychologist. The current arrangement does not work well when both are working or testing students at the same time

*Add another walk in cooler, 8-by-12 feet, so the district can store beef it purchases from local producers. The local beef program is a new initiative to get more local food items into the school lunch.

Denker said the expansion would make the elementary a more complete facility.

"I really think this will secure our elementary needs for a long time because both Bellwood and David City elementaries would be in great shape, space-wise.  We can then focus on the long term needs at David City High School," he said.

Lumber mill on the plains keeps growing

For Barton "B.J." Barcel there was never a question whether he’d take over his father Donald’s business, Barcel Mill and Lumber Company west of Bellwood.

“It’s kind of like farming - you grow up in it. It just seems natural,” he said. “Much like farming you develop a love for it and it’s what you want to do.”

Next year the mill will be 70 years old though Barcel said he could trace his family’s logging roots back over 100 years. Barcel’s also looking toward the future, expanding into new markets and buying up properties and businesses along the way.

While most people don’t think of lumber when they think of Nebraska, Barcel said there’s more than enough available for his company to continue growing in its location, just west of Bellwood.

“The Nebraska Forestry Service came in and did a survey for us,” said Barcel. “At that time if another tree was not to grow - so if the status quo was just maintained - we had a 595 year supply within 50 miles of our operation.”

That survey was taken in 2008, so Barcel has still quite a few trees left, but that hasn’t stopped him from purchasing competing mills across the state, including one in Osmond.

“I thought by being in that part of the state we could tap into the trees that are currently being underutilized or not utilized at all and turn them into a product,” he said. “I hate to see a resource just be wasted.”

The trees Barcel harvests are not grown on farms but are cut down by farmers and property owners. Some also come from Nebraska’s many rivers and creeks.

“What I hate to see happen is a lot of the time they get a contractor in to tear them all out, they push them into a big pile and they burn them,” said Barcel. “I'd rather see that that resource gets utilized.”

The biggest component of his business is veneer for shipping bricks, which he got into after buying out an operation in Plattsmouth. Some Barcel’s big customers buy dunnage and pallets for shipping their goods like Columbus manufacturers Behlen and Valmont where he’s noticed an uptick in sales.

“We're actually busier now than we've been in eight years,” he said. “The different administration has changed the business climate. It just seems like more things are happening now.”

But manufacturing ebbs and flows so he’s expanded into other products and markets, such as landscaping mulch, playmat mulch for playgrounds, compost media for livestock and most recently he’s developed shavings for livestock.

He hasn't seen much growth with the livestock shavings, but if things go according to plan, he will. Barcel said he developed that product after hearing about the Costco chicken plant that will open in Fremont in 2018 and hopes he’ll be able to either contract with Lincoln Premium Poultry or farmers.

“People eat every day,” he said. “So it'll be a much more constant product for us.”

It could also be a huge product for them. The Omaha World-Herald reported 75 to 100 farmers in the area will raise a collective 1.6 million chickens to be processed per week.

And he doesn't have much competition - Barcel's made a habit of buying out competitors. Now he's only competing against two other mills of similar size, one in Sioux City and another in Ashland.

In addition to running his lumber business, Barcel keeps busy with his various properties and businesses including a truck wash, storage facility and the Clock Tower strip mall.

“My problem is that I like to work,” he said. “That's what my kids always tell me that I'm always working.”

Barcel does find ways of having fun. In addition to raising his own children, he and his wife Paula have worked with and even taken in children they’ve met through their work with Youth for Christ and the Columbus Rescue Mission.

Just past a line of trees bordering the mill is a tree house he’s been building for three years. When it’s completed it’ll include a full working bathroom, heat and air conditioning.

On the top floor, he’s sculpting the walls to looks like tree branches that’ll have copper leaves for kids to sign and when they have their own children, have them sign.

“It’ll be thousands and thousands of leaves with children’s names,” he said.

He plans on having the tree house functioning next year.