Forum helps school board collect input
The Eudora School Board went straight to the source Thursday night in its search for information on the best way to solve the district's growing problem of overcrowded schools.
The board met with site council members from Eudora's four public schools during an open forum at the Eudora High School library. The purpose of the meeting was to share results of a feasibility study on district building directly to the site councils.
"What are you hearing out there as far as us building new facilities what are your thoughts on that?" board member Joe Pyle asked the audience.
Eudora High senior Zac Hamlin expressed his opinion of the crowded hallways of the school.
"I can tell you as a student in the school, the need is coming quick," Hamlin said. "If it's not coming quick, then it's already here."
Some in the audience said the town's older residents were against the building. Eudora High (EHS) principal Marty Kobza, however, said he spoke with older citizens in November, when the school district sponsored a Thanksgiving dinner for senior citizens at EHS and most understood and were concerned with the problem.
The board has sent some of its members to civic groups in Eudora for similar question and answer periods. EHS site council member Peggy Claggett said she was concerned that many people don't come to community meetings to learn of the district's situation. Other audience members suggested starting a newsletter with information regarding the issues of school overcrowding be mailed to Eudora residents.
Board member Kenny Massey agreed getting information to the public has been a problem.
"To get the information out, you still have to get people to your meetings and listen to what you're saying," he said.
Head architect Jim French showed the audience a presentation from the Overland Park architectural firm, DLR Group. French presented three options on how the district could provide for its students in the short and long terms. The options provided for 3-percent growth over the next 20 years. Each proposal included a first phase from 2001-2003 and a second phase from 2009-2010.
Option one proposed a new 600-student high school, with an estimated cost of $20.25 million. It also included additions to the current high school that would provide resource rooms, a teachers' planning center and a technology lab. The option also provided for an addition to the gymnasium and commons area at a cost of $2.9 million. The new school and additions would be built in the project's first phase.
The second phase would build a 300-student, $6 million elementary school and a four-classroom addition to the existing high school. The $1.08 million addition would increase the high school's capacity to 450 students.
Total cost for the 20-year plan would be $30.2 million.
A second option would build a $9.8 million 450-student middle school housing sixth through eighth grades. A seven-classroom addition to the high school with improvements to the commons area, special education room and the gymnasium would carry a pricetag of $3.6 million
The second phase included a $6 million, 300-student elementary school, housing kindergarten through fifth grade.
The 20-year cost for option two would be $19.38 million.
A final $9.79 million option included a 450-student middle school for sixth through eighth grades. A seven-classroom high school addition and improvements to the commons area, special education and the gymnasium was included for $3.59 million.
The third option's second phase would build a $6 million kindergarten through fifth-grade elementary school. The school would not be built until 2020.
DLR concluded that Eudora Middle School (EMS) needed major upgrades to bring the school up to standard. The report also cited a need for increased space at both schools.
After talking to many residents, Claggett said, it was her impression that most people don't want to see the middle school building go unused.
"I think what they want to avoid is seeing it torn down," she said.
Kobza suggested an idea that originated with the EHS site council. He said the district could build a 500-student high school without an auditorium. After the bond on EHS is paid off in 2008, the district could then make additions to Nottingham Elementary and expand EHS to 600 students.
"From our standpoint at the high school and as high school staff, we think this will solve the problem for a long, long time," Kobza said.
Superintendent Dave Winans said the board is open to different options, even those not presented by DLR.
"Right now, our primary job is to listen," Winans said. "As we listen and we get a sense of what the community and the staff feel is appropriate, I'm hoping there will be some strong possibilities that emerge and that they're not purely any of the ones we've had so far."
Winans said the district's financial advisor, Steve Shogrun with Ranson & Associates Inc. in Wichita, advised a maximum bonding capacity of $10 million. He said the figure was low, while DLR's estimates were high. The board has asked both Shogrun and DLR to re-examine the figures. Winans said he hopes to have those figures at the board's March meeting.
"(Shogrun) provided us with that figure and qualified it in a number of ways," Winans said. "He came to us with a figure that was conservative or was on the low side of what we could afford."