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USD 489 eyeing millions





Hays USD 489 Board of Education members have set a December deadline to decide on whether to put a bond issue on the April ballot, and if so, to decide how much money to ask voters to approve spending.

Representatives of HTK Architects presented dollar amounts for various scenarios at Monday night's work session.

The options range from building new facilities, upgrading existing buildings or repairing the current ones.

Repairing the current structures would include repairing the mechanical and electrical systems at all schools, fixing the Hays High School parking lot and installing elevators at Lincoln and Washington elementary schools. Cost of repairs is estimated at $26,196,933.

"These are things you need to do if not today, in the very near future," said Charles R. Smith, vice president of HTK.

An upgrade to facilities would mean adding a new gym at Lincoln, Washington, Wilson and Roosevelt schools, Hays Middle School and Hays High, an auditorium at Hays High, and cafeteria to Lincoln, O'Loughlin, Roosevelt, Washington and Wilson. Cost estimate for that scenario is $86,791,518.

The third scenario would close Lincoln and Washington schools and add new classrooms to Roosevelt and Wilson. Upgrades would be added to those schools and HMS and Hays High. The cost estimate is $83,094,069.

The fourth option would close all elementary schools but Roosevelt, and possibly O'Loughlin, and build a new elementary school at a cost estimate of $80,829,768. The remaining schools would be upgraded.

Rockwell Administration Center and Westside School also would close, and those operations would move to Wilson.

Another option is to close all elementary schools but Roosevelt, and possibly O'Loughlin, and convert Hays Middle School to an elementary school, and upgrade facilities.

A new middle school would be built, or a new high school, and the middle school, which could include grades five, six, seven and eight, would move into the current Hays High.

Cost for the option to build a new middle school is estimated at $81,020,078, and $107,032,423 to build a new high school.

The costs of each option likely will change because some maintenance and upgrading costs will be transferred to the capital outlay budget.

"We already have money built in there to support our old buildings," said Richard Cain, deputy superintendent.

With fewer older buildings, some of that money can be put to other uses.

Operational costs also will go down by closing older buildings and adding more efficient new ones, Smith said.

The board will decide in the next couple of weeks whether to get public input before selecting a specific scenario.

"One of the things we have going for us is from the Docking Institute (survey)," board member Alan Moore said. "I was encouraged by the number of people who responded through that survey that they were willing to move forward."

Greg Schwartz, board vice president, asked for estimates in transportation costs if the district has just two elementary schools.

Because some staff travel from one school to another, "there would also be savings in mileage to staff," Cain said.

"Now, we have a situation where the nurses all tell me whenever something happens, 'I'm in the wrong building,' " said Will Roth, superintendent.

Sharon Befort, board member, said parents have expressed worries about bullying and safety if the elementary schools are consolidated into two.

"It's a bigger school, but it shouldn't be scary," Roth said. "The classes are smaller, and there's more people to work with each child.

"If you have multiple teachers teaching the same thing in the same building, your educational opportunities are greatly enhanced. You can have groups, you can team plan. Five teachers teaching second grade have a better idea of how to bring Johnny along than just an individual teacher."