Archive for Wednesday, October 6, 2004

School committees focus on successful bond vote

October 6, 2004

The time is right for new school construction, says Tonganoxie Superintendent Richard Erickson.

"We're not going to have a better deal for taxpayers," Erickson said. "I really believe this is a wonderful opportunity for taxpayers because of the fact that the state is going to pay 30 percent of this bill."

On Nov. 2, voters will decide on a $25.3 million bond issue for construction of a new 5-8 middle school, as well as construction at the existing grade school and high school buildings.

If voters approve the bond issue, it will be financed at 25 years with a 10.908 mill levy increase. The owner of a $100,000 home would see taxes increase by $13.78 a month. On a $200,000 home the tax increase would be $27.56 a month.

Erickson said it's likely that as the area's population continues to climb the mill levy will decline. Basehor-Linwood school patrons are seeing this.

"Their $16.7 million debt six or seven years ago was a 14-mill tax increase for Basehor citizens," Erickson said. "Now that same tax increase is 6 mills this year because of all the new people moving into that district to share that tax burden. That same phenomenon will take place in Tonganoxie and it's just an ideal time to take care of our student facility needs."

Elementary school for grades K-4

$1.43 million

¢ Remodel the building, upgrade the phone and intercom systems and add new heating and air-conditioning to the gym that doubles as a cafeteria.

¢ Create art class within the building.

¢ Enlarge the media center.

¢ Add a 300-seat section of bleachers to west wall of north gym, new heating and air-conditioning of north gym, and repair moisture damage area along the west wall.

¢ Construct a 1,800-square-foot addition to the kitchen and food service areas.

New 5-8 middle school

$13.62 million

¢ New construction taking up 99,750 square feet.

¢ Building design separates grades 5-6 from grades 7-8.

¢ Preparatory kitchen and food service area.

¢ Classrooms for art, music, business and computers, family and consumer science, vocational and technology exploration, science, mathematics, language arts, social studies, foreign languages and special education.

¢ Media center.

¢ Physical education, with a competition gym for boys and girls physical education and athletic locker rooms.

High school for grades 9-12

$10.25 million

¢ New construction of a 71,750-square-foot addition to include a 500-seat performing arts auditorium with control, storage and makeup rooms.

¢ New music room and music staff offices.

¢ Enlarged lobby area for auditorium and gymnasium with new public restrooms.

¢ Drama and debate classroom and black box theater.

¢ New boys and girls athletic locker rooms.

¢ New vocational technology building to house all vo-tech programs.

¢ Gymnasium improvements to include retractable floor bleachers, wood floor, basketball goals, lights, paint and air conditioning. A second level for seating will be added to the north wall of the gymnasium.

¢ Convert existing high school auditorium into lecture and distance learning facility with computer lab.

¢ Upgrades to core academic classrooms.

Erickson said the area's growth proves the need for new and improved schools.

"I think it's extremely important to the school district," Erickson said. "It will provide us with the space that we need to educate our students properly for the next 10-plus years. And it will help us update our facilities at the high school in a way that we can serve our students and prepare them for the 21st century."

Good schools enhance communities, Erickson said.

"I really believe if you look past the educational benefits, it's very, very important to our community as far as our future is concerned," Erickson said.

High school

Erickson said the proposed high school improvements will benefit students in all classes.

"I think our community has some concern that we're doing all these improvements at the high school to put a new front on the high school and that's not really true," Erickson said. "The remodeled high school will have a different appearance than the present high school, but it will have a different appearance because of all the new classrooms that will be added to the facilities."

One of the areas that would benefit is vocational education.

"Right now our shops are very small and with the outstanding programs that we have we just desperately need to provide improved shop and classroom space in the vocational areas," Erickson said.

Another needed addition is a new 500-seat auditorium, Erickson said. New music classrooms and the debate and drama classroom will be located near the auditorium.

Another department that would benefit is special education.

"We'll move our special education programs out of the closets and into the classrooms," Erickson said.

And, the construction of the new 5-8 middle school on the district's 80 acres near Pleasant Street and Evans Road would free up 10 to 12 classrooms in the existing grade school.

"We can lower student-teacher ratios, provide special education classrooms that we desperately need right now and prepare for enrollment increases for the next 10-plus years," Erickson said.

The building program is designed to benefit all students.

"It doesn't just focus on one segment of our student population," Erickson said. "It focuses on all our kids. It makes significant improvements for all of our students as it relates to facilities."

Steering committee

During the past months, a committee has been meeting in hopes of steering district patrons toward approval of the bond issue.

Erickson said about 25 committee members have worked in four groups: promotional, speakers' bureau, finance and fund-raising and canvassing and talking to district patrons.

"We've made a number of presentations up to this point," Erickson said Monday. "And I think we have one or two more presentations planned. We're certainly willing and anxious to provide other presentations that the community groups may want."

And, to promote the cause throughout the district, four-page informational fliers were sent to all postal patrons.

Committee members have been helping with fund-raising, collecting money from private contributors, as well as working on a project to sell trash bags with the booster club.

And, committee members continue reaching out to area residents.

"We're trying to reach as many as we possibly can," Erickson said. "I really appreciate everyone that has helped with the canvassing committee.

"That's an efficient means of sharing the information about the bond election with the patrons and trying to individually address any questions they might have."

Erickson noted everyone is invited to participate on the committee. The next meeting will be 7 p.m. Tuesday in the district's central office.

And Erickson knows, meetings are more popular when they're short and sweet.

"We try to finish our meetings in an hour," he said.

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