Archive for Wednesday, April 2, 2003

School options estimate bond issue costs

April 2, 2003

Finally, they're talking dollars.

Last Wednesday, members of the Tonganoxie school district's capital improvements committee met with architect Jim French and Mitch Hanna of the DLR Group.

School board members last spring hired the DLR Group, Overland Park, on a contingency basis to lead the district through planning and construction of a new school, and/or renovation of existing facilities.

French and Hanna presented three possible building and renovation plans. French said the price tag of each option is higher than construction costs likely would run.

The prices range from $11.6 million to $17.8 million. The architect's summary is detailed on page 6A.

For a future bond election to pass, French said, the public must not only approve of construction plans, they also must be able to afford the tax hikes the construction would bring.

"In talking to your financial consultant, my guess is that you're going to be getting into some serious tax increases if you get up in the $20 million dollar range," French said. "If their pain threshold tends to be around $10 million for a project, you can see how that puts you in a situation."

Any construction, if approved by voters, would still be several years away.

French said he thought there was only a very slim chance the district could be ready for a bond election by November.

"Let's say we vote in November," French said. "You're probably not going to have anything happening until 2006. It takes us a good year and a half to get our drawing down and get a building built. We're looking at 2006 when we get the stuff done."

Community feedback

Gene Becker, a member of the capital improvements committee since it was started in the early 1990s, said he will ultimately go along with what the board approves.

But he's hoping it's not Option One, which would eventually nearly double the size of Tonganoxie High School, and would include construction of an additional gymnasium, commons area, classrooms and kitchen on the west side of the existing school, with plans for a possible new auditorium in the future.

This plan also calls for an addition to the front of the building of administrative offices, and a media center and art room.

French stressed that these are merely preliminary ideas to present to the community for feedback.

Regarding the high school in this option, Becker termed it a "flagship," and said he didn't think voters would approve it.

Option One would also include adding two new classrooms to the elementary school and shifting the sixth-grades to the junior high, where two or three new classrooms would be added. The high school would become a 9-12 school.

In this plan, about two-thirds, or $8.5 million, of the district's estimated $11.6 million construction cost, would be spent on the high school.

"I don't think the high school flagship concept will pass," Becker said.

Becker said, and French agreed, that Option One would be a short-term solution. As enrollment continues to grow, eventually more classrooms will be needed. This option does not adequately address this problem, Becker said.

Downsizing at TES

Option Two, which would include renovation only at Tonganoxie Elementary School, would convert the grade school to a K-3 facility.

A grade 4-8 facility would be built at the district's 80 acres on the south side of Tonganoxie. The high school campus would take over the existing high school and junior high buildings.

"This is kind of rough because you've got this big campus and you've got plenty of space, but you're in two buildings," French said.

However, he noted, this arrangement would allow for growth.

"I think you could get as high as 650 or 700 kids in these buildings together," French said.

Currently, the district has 503 students in grades 9-12.

While the architects' plans set up the 9-12 campus as an integrated unit, some committee members said it might be better to establish a 9-10 grade setup in the present junior high facility and have the 11-12 grade classes at the high school.

French didn't think separating high school grades was a good idea.

However, building trades teacher Steve Hughes liked the idea of a split high school. But he noted that the present high school, constructed in the mid-1960s needed renovation.

Hughes said some doors in the building are original and the hallways in the main corridors are too narrow.

New middle school

Option Three is similar to Option One in that the grade school would have grades K-5. Under this plan, a new 6-8 grade middle school would be built on the 80 acres. Grades 9-12 would occupy the present junior high/high school campus.

Other options discussed during the meeting included the possibility of building a new high school on the 80 acres. To build the high schools and to install the athletic fields would likely cost about $15 million or $16 million, French said. And, the committee discussed the possibility of constructing an additional grade school.

French said he hopes the community will become involved and let committee members know what they think would work best in the community.

Superintendent Richard Erickson noted results of a community survey two years ago.

"It was split right down the middle as far as a new middle school out there (on the 80 acres) or a new high school," Erickson said.

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