Archive for Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Architects: School buildings near capacity

Elementary school most crowded among buildings; junior high about right, firm says

January 15, 2003

According to a study conducted by architects hired by the school district, Tonganoxie school buildings are close to capacity.

Speaking of Tonganoxie High School in particular, architect Jim French told board members: "The school is a nice school, it just has some needs -- this school is pretty well maxed out."

Monday night, French and Andy Anderson, architects with the Overland Park DLR Group, spoke to board members about their ongoing study of the district's facilities.

Last April, the board unanimously voted to hire the DLR Group, on a contingency basis, to study the district's facilities and to draw up plans for construction and renovation. The architectural firm, which will lead the school district through a bond election and any future construction, will be paid about 6 percent of the cost of new construction and renovation.

"You're getting to the point where every part of your high school is fully utilized," French said.

If the last two years' trend of increasing enrollment continues, the school will need to consider expansion, French said.

"The high school is getting pretty close to its capacity," French said. "It maybe could handle 400 kids -- it's at 380 now."

The problem was amplified at Tonganoxie Elementary School, said Andy Anderson.

"The elementary school is 25 to 30 percent over-utilized than what it was designed for," Anderson said. According to Principal Jerry Daskoski, the original part of the elementary school was built in 1955. Additions were constructed in 1962, 1975 and 1988. Anderson said the district's newest building, Tonganoxie Junior High School, is the only one not suffering from crowding. The building was constructed in 1987.

"The junior high is about right," Anderson said.

However, even at the junior high, he noted that every available classroom space was in use and that some rooms intended for other purposes had been converted to classrooms.

At TES, roomy classrooms are a plus, Anderson said.

"It's your support rooms that present a problem," he added.

Anderson praised the district for using available space in various ways.

For instance, the teachers' lounge and workroom area takes up the stage area in the south gymnasium. But Anderson noted it's a small space with no restroom and nowhere for a teacher to hold a private phone call.

The nearby grade school kitchen is cramped, he said.

"It's woefully small for the number of meals that you're cooking," Anderson said.

Also crowded is the school's library, or media center.

"The media center is probably the most penalized area," Anderson said. "You've got about half the floor space you need. As I understand it, you can't get a full class in the media center to do work."

The elementary school could also use more restrooms, he said.

"The student restrooms are overcrowded," Anderson said, adding, "The kindergartners have to share restrooms with the sixth grade."

At the high school, which was built in the mid-1960s and added on to in the mid-1970's, French said the library is too small.

"Your library media center is probably half the size we typically see in high schools," French said. "You have seven or eight computers in this space, we typically see 20 -- kids don't want to be reading books, they want to be using the computers."

More computers and space for computers was a request French heard from high school teachers.

"I would say about every core teacher I talked to said we want more access to technology," French said.

French noted the difficulty in scheduling practice times in the high school's one gym. He said the district might want to consider adding a practice gym.

There seemed to be lack of storage space throughout most of the high school, French said.

In the high school administration area where three secretaries are crowded into one room, French said he thought more room was needed. He also expressed concern about the interior location of the administration office.

"We never recommend burying administration in the high school anymore," French said. "We really recommend that the administrators should have a view of the front door and the entire parking lot."

French and board members discussed the district's enrollment, which increased by 34 in 2001-2002 and by 40 this year. Erickson said 18 students have enrolled since the official September count.

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