Board: New High School Years Off

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After spending at least $25 million to construct a new elementary school and update the middle school, it looks like it will be at least 14 years before the school district can consider building a new high school.

While the school district’s board knows it needs a new high school, there is no money left over in a $34-million bond, approved by voters in 2006.

Superintendent Casey O’Brien told the board Thursday evening it will cost $40 million to build a new school, and they will not reach that bond capacity until 2023.

“We have no money for building improvements,” he said.

Until then, what the board does have is $2.28 million left over in the bond to make improvements to the school and keep it in running shape for the next 15 years.

The board approved a plan to install heating and cooling units in several areas of the school, repair the gym roof, replace the auditorium’s broken seats, demolish outdated trailers, purchase three new buses and possibly replace the vocational building over the next two years.

Currently, the vocational building’s layout and size is insufficient for the auto trades and woodshop programs. However, structurally the building is in fine shape.

Several board members questioned where they would put the new vocational building so it would not have to be torn down in 15 years when they do build a new high school.

O’Brien said they are not that far along in the project and when the time comes, an architect, planners and the board would decide where to best put it. They would also ask an architect to create a conceptual plan of what the high school would look like.

Board member Barbara Underwood commented that buildings are often haphazardly placed. Someone will say, “oops, here’s an empty plop of dirt, lets puts a building here,” she said of the process.

O’Brien said that shouldn’t happen this time and the board would be involved in construction to prevent that.

Regarding the 1972 trailers behind the school that need to be torn down due to structural concerns, board member Rory Huff noted that they had just painted the trailers several years ago.

If they had known they were at the end of their life then, they should never have been painted. O’Brien said it is unfortunate that they were painted, however, at the time the board did not have a 10-year master plan for maintaining the facility. Today, they have a master plan so they can see where to best put improvement money.

However, even with a master plan, board members questioned the need for 1,000 new auditorium seats at a cost of $200,000.

Todd Poer, maintenance and transportation director, said they don’t make the style of seat anymore, so they have no way to replace broken ones.

O’Brien defended the seats, saying they were needed — the auditorium is often the face of the school district to the community.

Poer said he went over the district with a fine-tooth comb looking for areas that needed improvement and could benefit from the bond.

“The district is looking really good,” he said. “We are being proactive as a district, and these improvements cover the major needs of the district.”

O’Brien said they don’t expect to get any money from the state in the next three years for building renewal, so they must maintain all school facilities for the next five years.

Other work includes parking lots being crack sealed. “The parking lots are way past maintenance,” Poer said. “If we aren’t proactive, we are going to end up losing them.”

The board approved all of Poer’s proposed uses of the remaining bond dollars.

Poer said he would check every avenue to find cheaper solutions before buying anything.

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