Archive for Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Erickson: ‘Full speed ahead’ on schools

November 10, 2004

Everyone is invited to attend a reception and balloon liftoff to celebrate the passage of the school bond issue.

The event will be from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday at the district's 80 acres just east of the intersection of Pleasant and Washington streets. This is where the new middle school for grades five through eight will be built.

Last Tuesday, voters approved by a vote of 2,319 to 1,613, a $25.3 million bond issue for school construction.

In addition to financing construction of the middle school, the bond issue will provide funding for:

  • Remodel and add to the existing grade school to convert it to a school for kindergartners through fourth-graders.
  • ¢ Tuesday at the Tonganoxie school district's 80 acres, east of the intersection of Pleasant and Washington streets.

    ¢ At 3:30, refreshments will be served while balloons are handed out. At 4 p.m., balloons will be released, followed by speakers.

    ¢ Everyone is invited to attend the event, sponsored by the Tonganoxie board of education, the Tonganoxie Education Association and the school bond election committee.

  • Remodel and revamp the high school and junior high into a high school campus for freshmen through seniors.

At Monday night's board meeting, school Superintendent Richard Erickson thanked school board members, and those who worked on the school building and bond committees, as well as voters who passed the bond issue.

"It's been a real slow process," Erickson said. "At times I wondered, are we moving too slow. Three and a half to four years is a long time. But I think that was ... important in developing a plan that would make significant improvement for our students, which I think this plan does."

Erickson said board member Ron Moore's suggestion that the life of the bonds be extended from 20 to 25 years likely made the bond election more palatable to district taxpayers.

"That lowered the tax increase by about 30 percent," Erickson said.

Tonganoxie High School teacher Pat Wakeman praised Erickson for his leadership during the construction planning and bond election process.

"You left someone off -- yourself," Wakeman said to Erickson. "And I would like to publicly acknowledge that this whole project would not have been done without your list of thousands of people and your tireless work. Wakeman, who has taught at the high school since 1969, said he has served on other committees for proposed school construction projects.

"Some have passed, some have not," Wakeman said. "This is really a boon to our community that this one has passed."

Board member Ron Moore agreed with Wakeman and praised Erickson for what he said was a marvelous job in leading the school and community through the bond election.

"I was surprised that we got 60 percent of the vote, that's excellent," Moore said. "I think Pat is exactly right -- we appreciate all the things the superintendent has done for us and everybody."

Board member Rick Lamb also noted the work students did to promote the bond election. He specifically named high school student council president Zach Pistora and senior class president Kaitie Pestock for their work.

Board member Darlyn Hansen said he was impressed with area residents who do not have children or grandchildren attending the district's schools and yet voted for the bond issue -- especially those who also worked on the committees.

"They stepped up to the plate to donate their time and services to see that others' kids can succeed," Hansen said. "That selfless attitude was so important. ... I think there's a lot of heroes out there."

In an interview Tuesday, Erickson said he hoped construction on the middle school could begin as soon as possible.

The board will meet with architects, construction managers and bond consultant in a special board meeting at 7 p.m. Nov. 22.

Early estimates would have the middle school ready for use by the fall semester of 2007. "Hopefully faster than that," Erickson said. "I'm hopeful that we can move this along -- we're in desperate need right now of classroom space."

However, Erickson noted, it's critical to take time to ensure the schools will fit the students' educational needs.

"We need to move forward, the calculated way," he said. "The input from our staff and our community will be very, very important, and yet we need to move quickly too to meet the space needs that we have in this district. And so -- full speed ahead."

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