Archive for Wednesday, February 27, 2002

Board interviews architects

February 27, 2002

Tonganoxie school board members Monday night began weighing the differences between two architectural firms.

The board is making plans so that if a predicted enrollment increase hits the district, a new school can be constructed. School superintendent Richard Erickson estimated that could be four to six years from now.

The school board is considering the following: Convert the present elementary school into a school for kindergartners through fourth-graders with major remodeling and adding of classrooms, library and lunch room. Build a new school for fifth-graders through eighth-graders on the district's 80 acres east of the intersection of Pleasant and Washington streets. Remodel the present junior high and high schools into a campus for freshmen through seniors, with a new front on the high school and a new vocational facility.

Monday night, board members met with James French and Mitch Hanna of the DLR Group, Overland Park, and with Michael Kautz and Larry Diehl of ACI/Frangkiser Hutchens Inc., Leawood.

Both firms have experience in working with districts in planning schools, passing bond issues and constructing buildings. And both firms have agreed to work on a contingency basis.

French said this is not uncommon for school districts.

"Most school districts have a difficult time paying for the amount of time and service that it takes for us to do a comprehensive study," French said. "What we offer to school districts is that we will defer our fee until we pass a bond issue."

The firms' fees vary. With DLR the cost would be about 6 percent of the total cost of new construction and from 7 percent to 9 percent of the total cost of renovation. With ACI/Frangkiser Hutchens, the fee would be about 6 percent of the total cost of new construction and renovation.

Erickson said that at this point he has no idea how much of the cost would go toward renovation and how much would go toward new construction.

Kautz said he realizes that the district will have to wait until the time is right before embarking on a construction project.

"If it's a longer horizon, then that's what it should be," Kautz said. "We're not going to push you into something that's not the right timing for your project."

Key to gaining community acceptance of a bond issue for a new school, both firms said, is to work with community members who will promote the idea. It's important, Diehl said, for them to talk to community members on a one-on-one basis, as well as speak at clubs and other gatherings.

And, both firms said, before any bond issue can be presented to a community, there must be a perceived need for the new construction.

It's as important to consider demographics, enrollment projections, as it is to gain input about what faculty and staff want and need in a school setting. It's also important, they said, to know what the public thinks is important.

French said there generally is a handful of people in a community who are vocal in saying what is needed in a school.

"It's important to try to get to the silent people," French said. "The moms home with children who can't go to the meetings and find out what they think is important."

And in passing a bond issue, it's important to increase public awareness so that yes votes are counted, Kautz said.

"A no vote is a no vote and you're not going to change their minds," he said. "But you want to get to the yes votes and make sure they know what is happening and that they get to the polls."

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