Archive for Thursday, December 7, 2000

School board looks at options for buildings

Members hit streets to ask for input, answer questions from community

December 7, 2000

Eudora`s school buildings are reaching a point where action must be taken to keep up with the ever-growing student population. Nottingham Elementary has recently had sewer problems; Eudora Middle School cancelled classes earlier this year due to excessive heat and all of the buildings are near capacity.

The Eudora School Board has looked at options. The board is surveying the community`s opinions, answering questions and getting ideas from community members.

Board president Marion Johnson said two board members have begun attending local civic functions such as church and community groups. The board began its campaign last week at the Eudora Area Historical Society meeting.

"We`re giving information and seeing what people have to say," Johnson said. "The main purpose is to ask them questions to see whether what we`re doing is good or what we`re doing is bad."

While board members go two by two, another proactive approach is being taken. The board has hired an architectural firm, DLR Group of Overland Park, to conduct a feasibility study of the district`s facilities. The study began in September and DLR hopes to have a preliminary report at the board`s Dec. 14 meeting.

Jim French, principal of DLR, said the firm would be examining the educational life expectancy of the buildings. It will also examine enrollment projections versus enrollment capacities and physical conditions of the buildings. DLR will also check that all schools are in compliance with the American Disabilities Act.

"What the board has asked us to do is tell them as a board how to take care of all those concerns," French said.

After the study, DLR will tell the board which plan would be more economically and educationally feasible -- to upgrade a building or buildings or build a new facility.

"The question we have to ask is, s it worth renovating,`" French said. "That`s what we`re looking at right now.

One building the board is concerned with is that of Eudora Middle School. Lacking air conditioning, DLR will examine what it would take for it to be added. French said buildings without air conditioning often incur other costs to add it, which lead to more renovations.

"Most schools that don`t have air conditioning don`t have the necessary electrical systems," he said.

French said sewer problems at Nottingham, which closed school doors last week, had not yet been addressed but could be in the near future.

"I`ve heard that there is an issue there, but I haven`t been contacted by the district yet," French said. "But, I`m sure we`ll be looking at it. When we looked at the sewer lines we didn`t know there was a problem there."

DLR is also studying the feasibility of Eudora High.

"I know we`re looking at the high school because the population is nearing over capacity," he said.

The board has awarded Manning-Prosser Construction, Lenexa, for the job of construction manager should any work is done. A construction manager oversees all aspects of any development, remaining on the job until its completion. If DLR suggests adding on to current structures or building a new building, the construction manager will still be used.

First, the board has to determine the best course of action.

"I don`t know if we have a timeline yet, what we`re waiting on is a feasibility study that our architects are working on," Johnson said. "The board feels it needs to do something because of the growth. If you look at the high school you can tell we`re overcrowded."

If additions or improvements are made to existing facilities, Winans said, it would take a bond issue to fund the projects, which would require a vote.

"Additions would require a bond issue," he said. "There has been major building projects undertaken in Eudora, that was because our capital outlay fund was built up sufficiently over time so those fund could be drawn from."

Capital outlay money is used for purchases such as new school buses and maintaining facilities. The maximum amount of capital outlay taxes allowed by the state is four mills, which would generate around $120,000 for Eudora`s school district. Capital outlay funds can accumulate year to year, but using that money for a new school if needed would be impossible at the current rate of expansion, Winans said.

"It would take a significant amount of years just from that revenue source before we have enough amount for a new building," Winans said.

Though a plan is currently in progress, the board would not be ready to have a proposal ready for the people to vote on by the next election in April. Winans said the earliest plausible time would be late 2001, which would require a special election.

"The earliest that we could have the information together and provide the community with the info so they could make an informed decision would be next fall," Winans said.

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