Facilities committee supports bond issue
Members of the school district's facilities improvement committee voted last Wednesday to recommend that the school board move forward on construction plans.
The five members of the committee who were present voted in the unanimous decision, including Jerry Daskoski, principal of Tonganoxie Elementary School who lives in Shawnee.
The construction proposal is a $25.6 million plan that includes building a new 5-8 facility on the district's 80 acres, transforming the existing elementary school into a K-4 facility and changing the existing junior high/high school campus into a 9-12 high school.
In recent weeks, the district has been working with the construction managers and architects to change plans as recommended by district patrons, and cut costs. Additions to the original plans include a covered walkway between the present junior high building and the proposed addition to the high school, and the exterior construction of a vocational education building.
Richard Erickson, superintendent, said the district could save money on the vocational building by having the interior work done by maintenance staff and students in Steve Hughes' building trades classes. Normally, each year the students build a house. In lieu of building a house that year, Hughes has said his classes could finish the building.
"We're looking at ways now not to cheapen, but at some alternative ways to reduce the labor costs," Erickson said.
Gene Becker, a member of the facilities committee, asked if there would be enough space at the grade school to house all-day kindergarten classes if the state requires them.
Erickson said the grade school will have some additional space for that because a modular unit installed in 2003, and the Quonset hut, which will be remodeled into classroom space this summer, will remain after the school's construction project is completed.
John Fuller, a consultant with the DLR Group, the architectural firm hired on a contingency basis to lead the district through construction, talked about how to wage a successful bond campaign.
For instance, Fuller said, it's important voters perceive students in all grade levels will benefit from construction.
And, he said in his work with other districts he's noticed that some voters are more apt to approve a bond election if computer technology, as well as space for computer technology, are included.
"They're willing to vote for the computer before they're willing to vote for the brick," Fuller said, asking if the district plans to include technology purchase in the bond election.
Erickson indicated that's not likely, as he said, the board of education has been gracious about funding the district's technology needs each year.
Erickson said it's important to sell the school construction project -- to the voters -- as an investment.
"For myself as a property owner, this is an investment in the future for me," Erickson said. "We have outstanding teachers and educational programs, but our facilities are not what they should be, particularly at the high school, they're an embarrassment. And at the elementary school we just don't have the space we need. We're busting at the seams."