Archive for Thursday, October 26, 2006

Advisory committee weighs in on bond options

October 26, 2006

A possible different district use for Nottingham Elementary School or building a new kindergarten through fifth-grade school building got unanimous approval of USD 491's citizen advisory committee.

But the united front crumbles at the suggestion the district should sell Laws Field.

District officials expressed appreciation for the citizens' insights as a meeting Tuesday ended the committee's three-week exercise to gauge public opinion on an upcoming bond issue.

"You're making decisions for the next 40 years and certainly we appreciate that," Kobza said.

After an Oct. 12 tour to establish the district's need for new facilities, the committee broke into focus groups Oct. 17. In the focus groups, committee members discussed topics ranging from how much money the district should bond out ---- consultants recommend $40 million ---- to the future of Nottingham.

One of the strongest reactions at the second meeting came from the possibility of the district building a kindergarten through fifth-grade school that could serve 1,000 students.

"I think when people see that they're going to freak out," committee member Erin Wellman said.

However, opinions changed after district assistant superintendent Don Grosdidier explained a possible format of the school. He offered the image of a school within a school to illustrate his point.

Each grade would have its own set of classrooms, or houses, within a larger campus.

The group watched a video shot by Kobza of a combined school in Atchison.

In the video, different grades were laid out as different pods on a campus. Each pod had classrooms and a common area. A central gymnasium and cafeteria were surrounded by pods.

By the time the district's communications director Kristin Magette gathered the group for the consensus exercise, nearly all were for the combined school.

The district gained valuable information regarding Laws Field and the Nottingham property.

When district officials asked focus group members what they thought should happen to Nottingham, the majority did not want the district to sell it unless it went for a premium price.

Others said it was important the district keep a presence on the north side of Kansas Highway 10.

Virtually all committee members supported an alternate use for Nottingham such as the location of a district operation center.

The committee supported the need to keep Nottingham for a different district use. Its members also supported the need for a new stadium.

"My biggest concern is safety for the kids that are there," activities director Dave Durkin said in support of a new stadium.

The decision to include a new stadium in the bond question ---- to be placed in the same campus as Eudora High School and Eudora Middle School ---- also gained unanimous support during the final consensus exercise.

Despite the consensus, committee member Belinda Rehmer said the fate of Laws Field could be the deciding factor in voters' decisions on a new stadium.

Magette will compile notes taken by district officials and administrators during the meetings and present the findings to the school board.

Eventually the findings from the advisory committee will go toward a series of survey questions, which the district will put before the public in the coming months.

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