Archive for Wednesday, September 10, 2003

School board settles on a plan

September 10, 2003

If voters approve, "Option 5" could be a go.

After months of looking at plans for school construction, Tonganoxie school board members have settled on one that would use existing schools -- and construct a new middle school.

This is the plan that meets the approval of school administrators.

Monday night, board members asked architect Jim French and Mitch Hanna of the DLR Group, Overland Park, to fine tune Option 5.

"Option 5" entails:

  • Using the existing grade school for kindergartners through fourth-graders.
  • Building a middle school for fifth- through eighth-graders on the district's 80 acres.
  • Revamping the junior high/high school campus into a high school for ninth- through 12th-graders.

Freshmen and sophomores would take core classes in the current junior high school building, and juniors and seniors would take classes in the current high school building.

In the architect's original estimates, the price tag of Option 5 was set at $14.4 million. However, this is a rough estimate that, until the details are worked out, is subject to change.

On contingency basis

In 2002, the board hired the DLR Group on a contingency basis to lead the district through architectural planning, a bond election and possible school construction.

During the 2002-2003 school year, architects met monthly with community members, as well as with school administrators, faculty and staff to guide the district patrons in establishing priorities and options. By June, seven construction plans, with estimated price tags ranging from $12 million to $22 million were on the table.

Taking care of needs

"I think the community expects us to utilize our current facilities and space as much as possible," THS principal Mike Bogart said at Monday's board meeting. "And they want us to come in for a bond issue that's going to be reasonable and take care of the needs."

Option 5 would essentially double the size of the high school, Bogart said, providing more room for growth as the increasing number of grade-schoolers matriculate to the upper grades.

This plan, Bogart said, should take care of expansion needs for the next 20 years.

Along with construction of a middle school, the front of the high school likely would get a facelift, and it's possible other amenities, such as a new auditorium, could be added. In all schools, classrooms currently in modular units or other exterior rooms would be moved into the main buildings.

French said more input from the community is needed before plans can be finalized.

"I think we need to go back out to the community and have some strong conversations with the people," French said. "... Ultimately, the community members are the ones that we have to have support from to get things done."

Board member Richard Dean agreed it's critical to have more community input than there has been.

"We need to give them an opportunity to feel that everybody is part of the decision and we're not going to dictate," Dean said. "That's not always easy because you hold meetings and 10 people come."

The possibility of holding an April 2004 bond election was mentioned at Monday's meeting. If district patrons approved a bond issue, construction would likely not begin for a year and a half.

Board member Ron Moore suggested that a little more time was needed before setting a date for a bond election.

"Let's take a week or two and think about it," Moore said, adding that he's interested in seeing what the total cost estimate will be.

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