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Final USD 489 proposal: $110M

10/23/2012

By JUDY SHERARD

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

HTK Architects presented a final scenario based on its facilities study to Hays USD 489 Board of Education members Monday night.

Similar to one presented a few weeks ago, in addition to closing Rockwell Administration Building and Washington, Lincoln and Wilson elementary schools, it would close O'Loughlin Elementary School. Students in grades five through eight would attend school in a middle school relocated to the current Hays High School, not just grades six to eight.

Students in kindergarten through fourth grade would be consolidated into two elementary schools.

Roosevelt Elementary would be expanded and upgraded, and Hays Middle School would become the second elementary school.

Wilson would be repurposed for an administration center and special education services.

A new high school would be built near the current Hays High, allowing for some shared space with the new middle school. The fifth and sixth grades could enter the school through one door with classrooms in one wing, and grades seven and eight in another. The two gyms and music room would be sufficient for a middle school.

The cost estimate for that scenario is $110,480,624. Of that total, the new high school would cost $81,035,173. The mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems also would be upgraded in the remaining buildings, and classrooms and a new gym and cafeteria would be added to Roosevelt.

When Marty Patterson asked, Vice President Greg Schwartz and board member James Leiker said they favored consolidating K-4 students into two elementary schools, moving grades 5-8 into the current Hays High building and building a new high school.

More than 50 percent of those surveyed by the Docking Institute last year replied they would back a bond issue, Schwartz said.

The district hasn't had a bond issue for a number of years, which "may be part of the problem. We've gone so long without doing major renovations, it gets us to a big number. But I don't think we're in a position that we're trying to be excessive," he said.

"Now it's time to make an investment," said Dustin Avey, senior vice president of Piper Jaffray, an investment bank and asset management firm.

"Thirty percent of the people in our school district could take a 2-percent increase in the mill levy, and (it) would be totally unacceptable, and they won't vote for anything that we're doing here," board member Rich Kraemer said. "We really can't spend a lot of our time trying to convince them. ... There's probably 30 percent or 35 percent that 20 mills, 19 mills, 17 mills wouldn't be a problem for them. Then there's that 40 percent in the middle."

"You have to understand they're going to want to know what it's for," Schwartz said.

"We (have to) concentrate our efforts to be successful on the 40 percent of the undecided," Kraemer said.

"If Will (Roth, superintendent) were sitting here, he'd say, money's fine, but we're doing this because of educational needs," Cain said. "He's going to hit that hard. We could do a so much better job if we were down to two elementaries."

Because you can get anywhere in approximately 10 minutes, the convenience of having a neighborhood school is eliminated in Hays, Schwartz said.

"People that would really be pushing for it, I would think, would be the 275 kindergartners' (families)," Patterson said.

Board consensus was to select one option to present to the community for input.

"I think we're all generally on the same page," Schwartz said of the board. "I think it's just a matter of: Do we want to tweak (the plan)?"

"I'm not comfortable with even the seven of us just saying this is what we're going to do without having some input from some place," Kraemer said.

Patterson asked what would happen in the next two or three years if the bond issue fails.

"Modulars," Cain said. "We're going to be out of space. We're out of space now."

"You've got to start with our enrollment projections. You've got to show them what we've done to be where we're at," Schwartz said.

"Show what our mill levy has been, and how it's declined every year for the last 10 years. I think that number is going to be about 5 to 10 mills we've dropped off for the nine years I've been on the board. ... Then show the plan. ... It's going to take care of our next 15 to 20 years' needs. That's what you're going to get for your investment."

Board president Darren Schumacher, members Sharon Befort and Alan Moore, Superintendent Will Roth, and Assistant Superintendent Mark Hauptman were absent.