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Top Stories 2012: Buildings projects take top priority in Hays schools

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Hays USD 489 completed two building projects this year and launched a facilities study.

In February, the board voted 6-1 to take over construction -- and use district funds -- to complete a 7,200-square-foot fitness facility on the southeast corner of Hays High School.

Board member James Leiker cast the dissenting vote saying 80 percent to 85 percent of the comments he heard were against the district paying to complete the project, which originally was planned to be funded solely by private donations.

"There are other concerns in the district. We have too many students in elementary school classrooms at one time. (There are) things we need to have in our plan," he said when casting his "no" vote.

The project began more than two years earlier as a community fundraising project. It was turned over to the Foundation for Educational Excellence for construction management in 2011.

The addition houses a weight room, coaches' office and storage, and was approved for occupancy in June. Total project cost was estimated at $376,300, with the district paying approximately $136,000, not including equipment.

The district's second addition was a metal building added to the northwest corner of Hays Middle School.

Construction of the 7,280-square-foot metal building providing an additional six classrooms and two restrooms was completed in August. The extra classrooms were needed for students coming to the school when Kennedy Middle School closed at the end of the 2011-12 school year.

The contract for the building went to Paul-Wertenberger Construction with a bid of $752,600.

"We estimated the cost at $983,000, so that's a very, very good bid," Deputy Superintendent Richard Cain said when recommending the board accept the bid.

Money for both projects came from the capital outlay budget. This year's capital outlay, an assessment of 8 mills, increased from $2,673,472 to $3,155,533.

The board also voted in April to hire HTK Architects to conduct a facilities study, which cost $60,000.

HTK representatives presented their findings this fall. Options ranged from maintaining the current facilities to closing and repurposing schools. A revamping could mean closing Rockwell Administration Center, consolidating elementary schools and building at least one new school. Costs ranged from $21 million to repair buildings as they are to more than $100 million to close some schools, revamp others and build a new high school.

After showing an initial interest in the option to consolidate elementary schools and build a new high school, the board appointed a facilities needs committee. It includes members of the community and three board members. The committee is gathering information about the school district, economic development and census figures to form a recommendation for immediate and long-term strategies for the school district's facility needs.

The committee meets again in January.