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Group rolls out $100M school proposal





After more than a year of study, the school district's facilities needs committee has approved a recommendation outlining the district's needs.

The recommendation of needs, totaling $100 million, now will go the USD 489 Board of Education for their consideration.

The committee's work included touring district facilities, surveying stakeholders, compiling historical documentation and looking at future projections.

"They've done their homework," BOE President Greg Schwartz said of the committee. "I appreciate all their work."

The recommendation calls for closing the Rockwell Administration Center and repurposing Washington Elementary School to house Westside Alternative School and The Learning Center.

Administrative offices would be added to a new district warehouse, proposed to be built near Hays High School.

The district's early childhood classrooms would be moved to a new addition at Wilson Elementary School. The move would free up classrooms in some of the other buildings.

A new cafeteria, gym and elevator would be added to Lincoln Elementary School.

With a classroom addition, Roosevelt Elementary School would expand to six sections, and a gym and cafeteria would be added.

A cafeteria, kitchen and music room would be added to O'Loughlin Elementary School.

The Hays Middle School entrance would be renovated, and a cafeteria, gym and wrestling and locker area added.

Items on the Hays High list are a new auditorium and entrance area, career technology education classrooms and a gym.

Some buildings would get new special education units.

Committee members are Bryce Young, chief operating officer at Hays Medical Center, and Patrick Lowry, editor and publisher of The Hays Daily News, co-chairs; Paul Briseno, Hays assistant city manager, Tammy Wellbrock, Hays Area Chamber of Commerce executive director; Tom Drees, Ellis County attorney; Aaron White, Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development executive director; Todd Powell, Fort Hays State University general counsel/executive assistant to the president; Nick Schwien, managing editor of The Hays Daily News, and Brian Weimer, account executive at IPI Financial Services.

The recommendation of needs totaling $100 million was approved by a vote of 6-1.

Young, Wellbrock, White, Drees, Lowry and Schwien voted yes. Briseno voted against. Powell and Weimer were absent.

"I'll be voting no simply because of the price tag," Briseno said.

The additional tax on homeowners and business owners will have an impact on the community, he said.

Wellbrock said she shared Briseno's concerns.

"We are making the recommendation with the expectation that there will be tweaks," Wellbrock said.

There's "a lot of wants in there, but to keep this moving forward, I would vote yes," Schwien said.

About $21.7 million of the total amount will pay for deferred maintenance, $67.2 million for renovations and additions, $1.68 million for furniture and $1.4 for technology. The remainder is for cost escalation.

"Our job was to look at the needs, and we pared down a lot of wants, a lot of wants ... These are the needs. The board will have to take it from there," Drees said.

No date has been set for the committee to make a presentation to the board.