Archive for Wednesday, October 1, 2008

New TES discussed at meeting

October 1, 2008, 12:00 a.m.

Updated: October 2, 2008, 10:17 a.m.

The current Tonganoxie Elementary School could one day be used as a community center, with additional schools being built near Tonganoxie Middle School to accommodate the lower grades.

Or, kindergarten classes would stay at the current elementary school and it would also house district offices and perhaps the community center, while first- through fourth-graders would move to a new building near TMS.

The configurations were a few of those discussed as possibilities for the future of the school district at a public meeting held Monday at TMS.

Nearly 20 people — administrators, teachers and patrons — discussed the future of the district and the need for more space for elementary school classes. It was the first committee meeting held on the subject, which will be held on a monthly basis. Anyone is welcome to attend the meetings and participate in the dialogue.

Superintendent Richard Erickson opened the discussion by offering four estimated options for dealing with classroom space needs.

The first option included a $16 million facility, at 100,000 square feet, that would place grades 1-4 in a school to be built south of the middle school. Estimated cost is 6.93 mills.

Option 2 calls for taking out bonds against capital outlay to add a fourth-grade wing at TMS and raise the capital outlay fund from the current 4 mills to 8 mills over five years.

It would be a $1.6 million facility.

Option 3 calls for purchasing or leasing 10 classrooms and positioning them on the south side of the TMS parking lot Estimated cost would be $500,000 and would be funded through raising the capital outlay by 4 mills over five years.

Option 4 would be to move eighth-graders to the high school and fourth-graders to the middle school, which would be of minimal cost to taxpayers.

The final option didn’t set well with people attending the meeting.

Gale Kiefer, a TES teacher, said she has a fifth-grader and eighth-grader in school and said, “It makes my hair stand on end that I could have an eighth-grader with seniors.”

Erickson said teachers had told him they didn’t think fourth-graders should be mixing with middle schoolers, either.

Discussion moved toward building near the middle school, where the district has a total of 80 acres in property.

Talk of building there brought with it concerns about infrastructure and what would need to be done to accommodate additional school buildings. Assistant superintendent Kyle Hayden noted the traffic issues that already exist near the school and the need for planning in that regard.

It was suggested that city officials be invited to the meetings to discuss those issues and Diane Bretthauer, a former member of the city’s planning commission, said city officials should be contacted in advance of meetings so they know what is going to be discussed.

Gene Becker, who worked on the committee that helped pass the bond issue in 2004, was vocal about making sure the elementary school benefits from another bond election, if it is pursued.

“Everybody really feels in the community the grade school did not receive what they needed to have at the last bond issue and it was quite evident at last bond issue that they would be overcrowded at this time,” Becker said. “This should not be a surprise to anyone.”

Current plans for the district call for the central office to be relocated to another structure that the high school building trades class would build, as Erickson said for “50 cents on the dollar.”

But Becker disagreed, saying the district really wouldn’t be saving money because expenses are in the plumbing, sewer and other areas, not in labor.

“I firmly oppose trying to preach about that we’re saving money,” Becker said. “It really does bother me when we talk 50 percent.”

Relocation of the central office to the current elementary school, if and when another school is built, was suggested.

Debbie Williams, who teaches at the elementary school, said moving the board office to the current elementary school would be good for the downtown district.

“More people might frequent businesses in the area,” she said. “That may help our community as a whole.”

Another issue raised during the meeting was, if elementary students were split up between the current building and a new school near TMS, it would cause some logistical issues for parents who potentially could have students at four different schools.

Erickson mentioned the possibility of including funding for artificial turf at Beatty Field with the bond issue, which he said would save the district money in the long run.

Bretthauer said she didn’t think voters would be in favor of that when the clear issue is addressing the elementary school.

Regarding extra-curricular activities, Rev. Dirk Scates said there was a need for athletics facilities at the middle school. Currently, the district’s cross country course is the only athletics venue there.

The next meeting about space issues at the elementary school will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 27 at the Chieftain Room at Tonganoxie High School’s east campus. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend the monthly meeting.

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