Tuesday morning’s snow illustrated one of the general needs for infrastructure improvements among Hays USD 489’s buildings.
Superintendent John Thissen made a visit to a classroom at O’Loughlin Elementary, 1401 Hall.
“I was in a classroom where one whole wall was pretty much windows. It was snowing, it was beautiful, it was really nice,” Thissen said.
But the teacher had one of those windows open.
“For some reason, those heaters’ registers give off a lot of heat there,” Thissen said.
The inconsistent heating is not limited to O’Loughlin, either.
“That’s not uncommon to see at Lincoln, at Washington, that in the wintertime you have windows open in different parts of the building,” Thissen said.
Heating/air conditioning is just one aspect of general issues common among the district’s eight buildings USD 489 hopes to address with a proposed $78.5 million bond. Hays voters will decide if that bond becomes reality when they go to the polls Tuesday.
It’s difficult to give a simple description of the district’s infrastructure needs, Thissen said, because each building has its own needs. But heating and air conditioning, along with electrical and plumbing, are common throughout the district.
Bond or no bond, heating and air conditioning at Hays High School will be addressed next year at least in part, Thissen said.
Next summer, the district will spend approximately $700,000 on replacing HVAC systems, but Thissen said to finish the entire project will probably cost $4 million to $5 million.
This year, the school district has been replacing lighting at Hays High with LED lighting, which use about one-quarter the electricity of standard lights.
“We’ve been using capital outlay money to buy the new units and have the maintenance staff put out the time to get them switched,” Thissen said.
“We’re kind of excited to see a comparison of this year to next year. We really believe there’s tens of thousands of dollars a year just at that building that’s being save on electricity because of the lighting,” he said.
But there are issues that aren’t as easy to fix. All of the buildings — which range in age from 92 years to 36 years — were built long before today’s needs for electricity were known, Thissen said.
Thissen addressed several other issues regarding infrastructure:
The bond proposal would repurpose O’Loughlin, putting Early Childhood Connections, Westside Alternative School and the Learning Center in the building.
Some concern has been expressed at putting the younger children served by ECC in close proximity to Westside, which provides mental health and additional services for students.
“I know that there is the fear of Westside being the worst kids. They do have problems. That building can be constructed in such a way that the entrances are different. There would truly be a separation,” he said.
In addition, ECC could benefit from being in closer proximity to the mental health professionals that work at Westside, he said.
“The children that go to ECC are children that are the most at risk. The 30 children that’s over at Westside, there’s going to be numbers of them that started there,” he said.
If the bond is passed, Lincoln Elementary and the former Washington Elementary, now the ECC, would be vacated. But the vision committee of parents, educators and community members didn’t desire the buildings to remain unused.
The first priority would be to see if the buildings could be put to use for community needs, Thissen said.
“If nothing would present itself, then there is money in the bond to destroy them,” he said.
Even if the buildings are torn down, community use for land was preferred by the Vision Team.
“I think they made it clear they want to make sure it’s not just a matter of trying to get money for the district, it’s a matter of those sites could have great purpose for the city,” Thissen said.
Should those properties be sold, the school board would decide the use of the funds, placing it in the general fund or for capital improvements, for example.
High school auditorium
It’s unusual for a school district the size of Hays to not have an auditorium, Thissen said. Even with other options in town, a venue for performing arts at the high school would be beneficial.
Hays High is performing its annual musical at Fort Hays State University’s Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center for the first time next weekend. But it’s not likely to happen often.
“It worked with the schedule this time,” Thissen said.
Because Beach/Schmidt wasn’t available to the Hays High production until this week, sets were built at 12th Street Auditorium and rehearsals were conducted in the wrestling room at the high school.
“There’s actually probably more work in trying to make this happen,” Thissen said.
The 12th Street Auditorium is still usable, but far from adequate.
“Putting on a play here is challenging. It’s not air-conditioned. Fortunately most of the time we use it in the wintertime,” he said.