USD 452 proposing $23 million school bond issue

1/9/2014

By ANGIE HAFLICH

By ANGIE HAFLICH

ahaflich@gctelegram.com

JOHNSON CITY — Community members in Johnson City will vote April 1 either for or against a $23 million bond issue to build a new elementary school and renovate mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems at the existing junior/senior high school.

On Wednesday night, USD 452 Board of Education members presented the site plan to community members at the last of three informational meetings held at Stanton County Junior/Senior High school.

"The comments that have come back to us in these initial meetings have been really helpful in guiding the board to their final decisions before they call the bond," USD 452 Superintendent Angela Lawrence said, referring to the official action the board is expected to take Monday night.

The biggest cost associated with the project will be the addition of the elementary school, which will be attached to the existing junior/senior high school. That is estimated to cost $11.58 million. Renovations to the junior/senior high school are estimated to cost about $5.8 million.

Lawrence said that board members and district staff have been studying the project for the past 18 months. One of the driving factors in evaluating their current needs was a large jump in kindergarten enrollment.

"We got numbers in that this year's kindergarten class is around 54, and it was like, 'We're out of space,'" Lawrence said, adding that 36 to 40 kindergarten students is typical for the district. "So that was really a driving force."

Lawrence said that they first had professional engineering consultants inspect the elementary school, which was built in 1950, to evaluate the roofs and windows, as well as mechanical, electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems, which all were deemed to be outdated. Lawrence said at that point, they realized that a bond issue would be required to address the issues, so they had consultants conduct an evaluation of the junior/senior high school, as well.

"And the same types of reports were coming back — the HVAC, the plumbing, the mechanical, the electrical, all of that — it's at it's life expectancy. Within the next few years, you're either going to be seeing some major repairs or replacement," Lawrence said.

Fiss Architects of Hugoton and Hutton Construction of Wichita evaluated the situation, and the district was presented with three options.

One option was to renovate the junior/senior high school's mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and to add onto and renovate the existing elementary school, but that option came in $1.1 million higher than option A, the option being presented with the bond issue.

Another of the options was to move elementary students to the former middle school building, but logistically, that building won't accommodate pre-K through sixth-grade students due to the inadequate sizes of classrooms and for safety reasons. That option came in $2.25 million higher than option A.

"That's how we got to option A, and that's where we're at right now," Lawrence said.

The new elementary school will be equipped with 19 classrooms and will be wired for high speed Internet. The existing junior/senior high school will be updated and remodeled to provide for additional classroom space, as well.

"We feel like, with this addition, we'll be OK, studying a five-year enrollment trend. We don't feel like three years from now we'll be wishing we would have added more. We've built in enough that we feel like we would be OK if we needed to expand," Lawrence said.

Additionally, a storm shelter and a new gymnasium that can be used by all grade levels will be built. Also, access roads/driveways will be put in, a new playground will be constructed on the east side of the elementary school and secure entrances will be added to protect against building intrusion. The new facility will also feature one preparatory/serving kitchen with two separate cafeterias for grades K-6 students and grades 7-12.

According to information from USD 452's website, the old elementary school will be demolished and the district will sell the land. Lawrence said the district will maintain ownership of the old middle school, which she said the city's recreation commission will be utilizing.

The recreation commission and the district also are working together to add three ballfields on campus.

"So that's new to the site plan," Lawrence said.

The junior/senior high school has been in existence since 1978, the last time any kind of major construction project has been undertaken by the school district.

The total of the bond issue is $23,340,000. A property taxpayer owning a home appraised at $100,000 would be liable for about $301.88 in additional property taxes per year for the next 20 years, assuming the appraised value of the home remains the same.

Approximately 1,230 registered voters reside in Stanton County.

Lawrence said that so far, she thinks the proposed bond issue has been received positively.

"There may be some tweaking in how we do some things and how we finance some things, but we feel like we have tweaked it about as far as we can tweak it to get what we need to be progressive — to take care of our needs now and also plan for the future," she said.

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