Archive for Thursday, April 5, 2001

Board to make decision on school proposal next week

April 5, 2001

Principal Marty Kobza sees firsthand the stress that growth has put on Eudora High.

Every school day, crowded halls are a problem for students. Projected figures for the district are expected to push enrollment beyond the school's capacity of 350.

It will be up to the voters to determine if a new school is the route to take to provide for the district's growing population. Next week, the board will make a decision on which option to present to the community. That will be determined from feedback from school administrators, Superintendent Dave Winans said. Eudora's principals will make a collective decision and present it to the board at its next meeting, 7:30 p.m., April 12 at the EHS library.

"It'll be a consensus," he said.

Last Thursday, Kobza and the Eudora School Board heard a revised proposal from the Overland Park architectural firm, DLR Group, at a special board meeting. DLR released a preliminary budget summary with figures as close as possible to what the actual cost could be.

On March 8, DLR head architect Jim French presented the board with a $17,026,423 option. It would both build a new 500-student high school and provide $3,370,500 for an addition at Eudora High that would transfer students from Eudora Middle School to the EHS building. DLR has presented the board with five options since December 2000 that could help the district prepare for future enrollment hikes as the district grows.

At the March 8 meeting, the board asked DLR to show what a new $14 million high school would look like. The new figure of $14,393,916 prompted the need to cut some corners to alleviate the construction cost.

However, Kobza was concerned that a pared-down plan would only provide a temporary fix to a growing problem.

Board president Marion Johnson agreed.

"I don't want to spend $14 million and not solve the darn problem," he said.

French said DLR had worked with the Horton School District and faced a similar situation. The district needed to build a new school, but to fix the problem, it needed to approve a bond with a higher amount than expected. French said the community rallied together in support and voted to approve the bond and bear the financial burden for the betterment of the school district.

The board has had past communication from Steve Shogrun, district financial advisor with Ranson & Associates of Topeka. He said the district could potentially have $16 million to work with. For a $100,000 home, the bond issue would create $149 a year in additional taxes. Kobza said a $16 million high school with fewer cuts, such as classroom and commons area space, is preferred to help alleviate the current and future growth situation.

"We can make any space work," Kobza said at the meeting. "We're doing that now. But, we'll shortchange ourselves in the long run. The original plan will accommodate needs in the future."

Johnson said regardless of what the administrators decide, the voters will ultimately be the ones to make the decision.

"If they recommend a little more, then we're going to have to take it to the patrons and see what they think," he said. "I don't want to build something that doesn't meet the needs. I'm not looking for a quick fix; I'm looking at something that solves the problem the best we can for a long time."

Eudora Middle School Principal Dale Sample said he would like to see a new middle school built. But, he thought the option for building a new high school and moving EMS to the current high school building would be best for the district at this time.

"I do not want to get into some kind of war of words on which way we want to go," Sample said. "I think it's important as a board of education and as an administration that we be united.

"Hey, we will be tickled to death just to get out of this building."

Nottingham Elementary students are also feeling the space crunch in their classrooms. Principal Tom Jerome said whichever option is agreed upon, it would help alleviate pressures on all levels and provide for the students' needs first and foremost.

"We definitely need space," Jerome said. "I'm crowded for space and I need it immediately. We've got to have some relief that's going to filter up or down, no matter how you look at it."

The board also discussed land acquisition in executive session at last Thursday's special meeting. Afterward, the board voted to enter into an agreement to purchase 60.2 acres at $13,500 an acre upon passage of a bond issue. The land, owned by Don and Judy Meiergerd, starts immediately north of EHS, runs adjacent to 1061 Highway and stops just prior to 19th Street. The cost of the land is not included in the proposals given by DLR.

Winans said he is hopeful the bond issue for a new school would be passed this fall, but said the district would not be committed to the land purchase if it doesn't pass.

"It's not like it's all or nothing," he said. "We could try a second or third time if it comes to that."

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