Archive for Thursday, February 9, 2006

Old middle school’s fate hangs in air

February 9, 2006

As discussion of a new recreation center for the city continues, the Eudora School District continues to ponder the fate of its facilities, including the old middle school gym still used by the district and city.

The declining condition of Laws Field has moved the district to develop plans for a new stadium, but the fate of the old middle school gym remains in limbo.

The situation could come into better focus Thursday as the Eudora USD 491 Board of Education plans to discuss the a property appraisal by Keller and Associates during its monthly meeting.

"We have to look at our overall facility plan and see what our needs are," superintendent Marty Kobza said. "We have an idea, but I think the growth in the community is so dynamic. What we thought our needs were even as much as 12 months ago are different now.

"I guess it all comes down to how it fits with the big picture and what our needs are with that area," Kobza said.

Eudora's dynamic growth makes it hard to establish concrete rules for making a decision, Kobza said.

The decision becomes murkier because of the site's dual importance to both the district and the city.

Eudora Parks and Recreation Director Bobby Arnold said the city relies on the old middle school gym for the majority of its spring and winter sports.

"It plays a big part," Arnold said.

Besides offering a recreational facility in the gym, the old middle school houses the Eudora--De Soto Technical Education Center and the district's after-school program.One possible fate for the site could be demolition.

"I think that's always one of the options to look at," Kobza said. "We looked at how much it would cost us to renovate the structure as a school and it was in about the $5 million range."

The school is in need of roof, plumbing and air conditioning repairs, Kobza said.

In order to repair the facility enough to continue indefinitely in its current function, the district would have to spend about $1 million, Kobza said.

"It just becomes a matter of time when the roof deteriorates -- up until when it cannot be patched any more," Kobza said.

Although repair costs mount for the facility, Kobza still sees reasons for keeping it pat.

"I think the district keeping a presence in the downtown area, in the northern part of the community is important," Kobza said. "I think that's a consideration. It's always easier and more efficient."

On the other hand, there's the dubious feasibility of putting $5 million into the project, Kobza said.

"It's lived a good and useful life, and at some point it has kind of reached the end of its time period," Kobza said.

In the meantime, Kobza said he didn't see any alteration in its current use for both the district and the city.

"Right now, I would say in the short term, they'll continue to use that facility, and we'll continue to use that for practice for our middle school kids," Kobza said. "Obviously, we'd want to make sure that aspect stays in place until the city and we have another alternative as well."

The school board will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday at the USD 491 district office, 1002 Elm St.

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