Archive for Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Tonganoxie board discusses two additions to high school

January 10, 2001

School board members Monday night discussed the possibility of constructing a 9,000-square-foot addition to the north side of Tonganoxie High School.

Richard Erickson, superintendent, said this would provide additional classroom space, as well as a needed facelift for the school, which was built in 1965.

"This would provide significant improvement in the appearance of our campus," Erickson said. "The junior high looks nice, the athletic complex looks nice, but the high school is old and outdated."

Erickson said the addition would be 150 feet wide and 60 feet long.

"We could construct four classrooms on the north side and develop a large commons area that would house the lockers," Erickson said.

He also noted that the public restrooms in the lobby are outdated and would be replaced in the new addition.

Erickson estimated the plan would cost about $75 per square foot, for a total of about $700,000.

In addition to this idea, Erickson talked about constructing an 18,000-square-foot building west of the high school near the art building. If this building, consisting of three 6,000-square-foot sections for vocational technical programs, could be constructed at a cost of $15 per square foot, Erickson said total cost would be about $270,000.

"To do it for that, we would have to rely on a lot of donated labor and materials," Erickson said.

Erickson noted the extensive contributions of labor and materials that had gone into recent construction at the athletic complex.

"I don't know how much more we could stretch from the community," Erickson said.

Erickson said this option could likely be financed through the district's capitol outlay fund, which he said he didn't recommend because it could decrease the balance "dangerously," he said, or through a lease purchase plan.

Another option would be to build a metal structure, which would have a brick skirt about halfway up the side of the building, Erickson said. This option would run about $35 per square foot, and would most likely be financed through a bond issue.

Erickson said he didn't know if a bond issue would pass.

"With the local option budget, right now we've raised the mill levy considerably the last two years and we're looking at a possible five-mill increase next year and a possible five-mill increase the following year," Erickson said. "How much would the public accept?"

A third option would be to construct a split-face block building for the vocational trades classes, a step up from the first two options. This would cost about $75 per square foot.

"There's the feeling by some people in the community that we need to have the best," Erickson said.

Erickson said he thought that any construction should be paid off as quickly as possible.

He used the example of a $35 per square foot vocational education building, which would total about $630,000, and the addition to the north side of the high school, which would total about $700,000.

"We would be looking at a payout of about 5.5 mills over the next five years," Erickson said.

"But add that to the five mills we've got coming this next year for the Local Option Budget, plus the next year's LOB, and we would have moved from being one of the lower-levied districts around to being right up above the average."

Tonganoxie's school tax levy is 45.5 mills. A mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 of assessed property valuation.

"DeSoto has 73 mills, Olathe and Blue Valley are in the 60-mill range and Basehor-Linwood is in the mid- to high-40s," Erickson said.

The district's current indebtedness, a 3.77-mill bond for the junior high, should be retired in 2006.

Board members expressed caution.

"If you get that mill levy up to that level and all of a sudden you're inundated with new kids and you have to add on, you're going to be in trouble," said Richard Dean.

"We've got the highest number of building permits in the county," Rick Lamb said. "But still, where are the kids?"

Board members discussed the fact that the district has approximately 130 home-schooled students, a private school in Tonganoxie that is expanding, and other private schools in the Kansas City and Lawrence areas.

High school principal Mike Bogart agreed that the district is in an uncertain position right now.

"It's kind of a Catch-22," Bogart said.

One of his teachers is often told by parents at other schools that the high school's appearance of is a negative factor for people who are considering a move to Tonganoxie and want the best educational advantages for their children.

Terry Needham suggested gauging the community's reaction to the issue. She suggested that the school district's site committee, a group of local volunteers, discuss the issue.

"I think we need to visit with the site council and see how they feel," Needham said. "Because they're the pulse of the community. I think you need a pulse in the community to see what people want."

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