Archive for Thursday, April 8, 2004

Preparing for a big bang

Schools considering when, how of new facilities

April 8, 2004

With several schools in the district approaching capacity, district leaders are looking at ways to handle expansion issues and when to bring those issues to the community as a whole.
"We've got to be very active right now in communicating," said Board president Kenny Massey.
When district leaders and patrons met with the district's planning consultant last week, the group discussed a possible timeline for dealing with Eudora's schools, which are expected to grow about 5 percent each year. Dealing with that growth could include future bond issues.
With a 5 percent increase each year between 2004 and 2009, every school but Eudora High School would be at maximum capacity.
"If we wait until we're at maximum capacity (before a plan is implemented) and it fails, we're in trouble," said Board member Mark Chrislip.
Howard Smith, the district's planning consultant, said it was important to present to the community how the district would deal with growth if voters weren't to pass a bond issue. Class sizes and decreased programs would be the biggest motivators for the public, Smith said.
Smith emphasized keeping the community informed about school growth would be paramount, especially because voters aren't seeing the everyday effects growth has in the classrooms, such as large class sizes.
The importance of gaining and maintaining the public's trust was also emphasized.
When the current high school's bond issue was up for referendum in 2001, the district had to overcome some voters' contention with being asked to pay for a new high school when the bond on the current building, now Eudora Middle School, had been passed with the promise the building could be added on to.
"People have been told this building (the middle school) would be added on to, and if you disregard that, you'll lose trust," Superintendent Marty Kobza said.
The current high school was designed with theability to add on to not only classrooms but to expand communal areas, which posed a problem a the middle school building.
"You want to build on a foundation of what you've already told people," Smith said.
Another important part of public perception, Smith said, would be to make some kind of improvement on each of the schools so the community would feel like its needs were being met. He said sometimes district patrons perceived one age group as getting better facilities than the other.
The middle school's bonds are set to retire in spring of 2009. That would mean if a bond referendum passed in 2008, property owners' taxes for the schools would remain on a somewhat even keel. The next necessary building is anticipated to be a new elementary school.
The idea of bonds retiring as new ones are proposed could be a big selling point, Smith said.
-- Contributing: Theresa Abel

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