Committee considers repurposing school
By JUDY SHERARD
Elementary schools' needs lists were on the Hays USD 489 facilities needs committee agenda Friday morning.
In the preliminary discussion of schools' needs, a key point was whether to recommend the Washington Elementary School building continue to be used as an elementary school in the long term, or be repurposed.
Washington is one of the oldest buildings and has the smallest enrollment in the district, with one class in each grade. Committee members discussed whether it would be more efficient, financially and educationally, to absorb the students and staff at the other four elementaries.
"I think we can keep Lincoln (Elementary School) if we understand that we need to grow it some," said Greg Schwartz, board of education vice-president and committee member. "Then you can look at Washington being scaled out, and making (Lincoln) a three-section school eventually, too."
"We're not demolishing the building, we're just operating on the assumption that it will not be an elementary school," said Bryce Young, committee co-chairman.
Washington Principal Allen Park said he hopes closing Washington as an elementary school is just a preliminary discussion point.
"Washington has served families over 80 years. ... There's a strong family tradition. They like the small (school) atmosphere," he said.
"I was pleased and impressed with what we got back from all the buildings," said Tom Drees, a committee member, of the lists of needs and wants.
Most of the items on the schools' lists had been identified by the committee during tours of the district buildings, he said.
Security, including secure entrances, at all district buildings should be a priority.
Some building needs such as heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting could be funded through an energy savings program if the board of education chooses.
Committee members agreed a gymnnasium, cafeteria and storm shelter is needed at all of the elementary schools.
"If you build the right gym and lunchroom, it becomes your storm shelter," Drees said.
The committee consensus also was the Rockwell Administration Center might have outlived its usefulness.
The committee of 13 community members is gathering information to form a recommendation for immediate and long-term strategies addressing the school district's facility needs.
A final recommendation will be presented to the board when completed.
Needs and wants identified at the other schools and programs will be on the agenda at subsequent meetings.
The committee meets again Friday.