Archive for Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Crowding issue poses concerns at schools

Board considers moving students in district

February 12, 2003

School board members and administrators are looking at ways to alleviate crowding at Tonganoxie Elementary School.

One option board members discussed Monday night is to move sixth-graders into Tonganoxie Junior High School, and move ninth-graders to a building that would be constructed between the junior high and high school. The present junior high would then be more of a middle school.

This option, as well as others discussed, would be a temporary solution. A more permanent solution, said school superintendent Richard Erickson, would be to build a new school -- a project that could take years of planning. Last year the board hired the DLR architectural firm, Overland Park, to work with the district on a contingency basis through the design and construction phases of construction of a new school, if a bond issue passes.

"We all know it's going to probably take two to three years just to develop a plan," Erickson told board members Monday night.

"And then to complete a plan it may take another two to three years, so we may be five years out from being able to do anything about our overcrowding situation," Erickson said.

Of the six plans listed for board members Monday night, Erickson said his choice would be to build a separate building for ninth-graders. After the possible later construction of a new school in the future, that building would then house vocational classes.

Erickson said he planned to meet with architect Jim French of the DLR Group, and a builder, this week to gather information for the board. As of Monday night, he said he guessed that construction of a ninth-grade facility might be completed for about $400,000.

Erickson said his second-favorite option would be to purchase and install another modular unit at the elementary school. This unit would house two classrooms, and cost and installation would be about $50,000.

Board member Richard Dean expressed caution.

"What's the state budget going to be two or three years from now?" Dean asked. "That's a big factor. It's not going to go up -- how much it's going to go down is what we need to try to figure out."

While board member Ron Moore said more discussion of this would be needed before any decision can be made, he said he would prefer building a ninth-grade building (future vocational facility) to installing more modular units.

"We do want to make sure if we do this vocational that it's a permanent structure that's going to fit with our improvement plan," Moore said.

Moore said the district needs to move cautiously.

"The time frame seems pretty aggressive to me if you want to complete it by next August," Moore said. "I guess the missing key is how many students are we going to have and is it really going to be an overcrowding problem at the grade school?"

Tammie George, elementary school assistant principal, said the grade school is so crowded that it's difficult to schedule classes.

"At one point a PE class is actually taught for kindergarten in the foyer of the north gym," George said. "That's the allowable space."

George said the newest third grade class, added after the start of the school year, has to split in half for physical education and music classes.

"We're just truly running out of space," George said.

Board members agreed to meet in special session on Feb. 24 to discuss the issue further. However, on Tuesday afternoon, the superintendent's office said that meeting likely would not be held.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.