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Architect proposals on BOE agenda

10/20/2012

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Adjustments to scenarios constructed by HTK architects from facilities study findings will be the focus of a Hays USD 489 work session Monday night.

The work session is at 6:30 p.m. in the Toepfer Board Room in Rockwell Administration Center, 323 W. 12th.

The facilities study came about because "we know we're at a point where we have to do something about our old buildings," Superintendent Will Roth said.

Roth said the district has looked at ways of improving the district's facilities.

One is through energy savings programs that update the buildings' systems and windows with energy savings targeted to pay for the improvements during a designated time period.

"The other way of bringing things up to date is with a bond issue," he said. "We pay it up front. The idea of the first example being free from energy savings is misleading. It's not free. You're taking that money out of our operational budgets. ... This is a different way of creating the funding, but it fixes things up front and makes our operational costs much lower. We get to realize that savings ourselves and be able to use it for student learning."

Building safety and accessibility also are on the list of needed improvements, cited by HTK.

"I would liken it to somebody with a car. You can keep driving it. You can keep patching it. But at some point, you ask yourself, 'Am I just throwing money away and I still have an old car that I struggle with?' We have to make a decision: Do we want to spend the money we need to spend and still end up with an old building, or do we want to at least explore abandoning those buildings and working on our newer buildings, perhaps even build a new building? Working on them meaning adding capacity to those existing buildings that are in pretty good shape. That's what prompts all this."

HTK representatives presented the board of education members with several scenarios with varying price tags at the September work session.

However, the board asked to see cost estimates on repurposing Hays High School for grades five, six, seven and eight.

"I think that would be awesome having fifth and sixth grades together, and then a seventh and eighth program," Roth said.

That plan also would close Washington, Lincoln, O'Loughlin and Wilson Elementary Schools. The current Hays Middle School building would be converted to an elementary school, and Roosevelt Elementary School would get an addition. Wilson would house central office staff, Head Start and special education classes. A new high school would be built.

That plan likely would cost approximately $100 million. Other scenarios presented ranged from improving existing facilities at an estimated $26 million to upgrading facilities for approximately $86 million.

Roth said he favors consolidating schools and building a new high school with larger classrooms and hallways. The new high school also would include a performing arts center and larger gym area.

"We don't have a performing arts center. That's been a sore spot for years, for me at least and many members of the community. Our 12th Street auditorium is crumbling. It's still safe, but I'm not sure for how long because the (outside) wall needs to be taken out and replaced. ... Although the gym is nice sized, the area around there is insufficient to handle the public when we have activities. There's no place for them to go once they leave the bleachers."

It would cost less to repurpose the building for a middle school than to upgrade it to the standards of other 5A high schools in the state, he said.

Consolidating elementary schools also makes sense and is becoming common in the state.

"A lot of it springs from the same reason," Roth said. "They're too small to be efficient. ... A school with 100 kids is an extremely expensive school to operate. People say we can do good things with the kids. We can do just as good of things with an elementary school of 800. What matters is how close do you get to that student. If he needs one-to-one, are you able to offer that to them? The likelihood in a 100-student building is less than the likelihood in a 600 or 700 elementary student building that you would have resources for those few kids that you absolutely have to get one-to-one if they're going to achieve. That's much more likely in a larger school."

"It makes no sense to put $25 million into what we have, to put money into this building (Rockwell), to put money into Lincoln and O'Loughlin," said Richard Cain, deputy superintendent. "We've still got old buildings with new boilers. People on the street will say, 'Where did my $25 million go?' They won't see a thing because it's all down in the boiler room or in the electrical room. That would get us by for awhile, but you've still got it inadequate for educational reasons, the bigger issue."