Archive for Thursday, October 18, 2007

A new BHS is newest facility idea

October 18, 2007

Instead of nailing down a list of projects for a bond issue, the facilities committee threw out several more ideas at the Oct. 10 meeting.

The new projects discussed were renovations to the Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center, ball fields and a new high school.

After a brief presentation from the architectural firm, DLR Group, the committee discussed several items. One new idea was a new high school, which was brought up by Will Cooper, district band teacher.

"I hadn't heard it discussed before," Cooper said. "I heard about the need for a new elementary school. The high school is the flagship school of the district. Once again we are trying to band-aid this and band-aid that. Why don't we address the problems we have and fix things for 50 years?"

Cooper explained why he brought up the new idea. He said BHS doesn't fit the needs of a modern high school in many areas, including performing arts, sports and technology feasibility.

"When they built the current one, it was better than what we had before," Cooper said. "But like everything else, it was a compromise. It just doesn't meet our needs. We should have built it to what schools need."

Cooper suggested that if the district were to build a new high school, the other schools in town would move up to the next building. Baldwin Junior High School would move into BHS and BESPC would move into BJHS.

He said that would take care of having to replace BESPC, although some renovations to the current BJHS are needed. He said the building switch might also help alleviate the problems with small cafeteria space at BJHS and BESPC.

On Monday, Cooper said the district needs a flagship school that will be new and can last decades.

"Do we want to compare ourselves to the Eudoras and De Sotos or to the Wellsvilles and Santa Fe Trails?" Cooper asked. "We need a building that will get us through the first half of the 21st century. We need a vision of our schools."

Toby Ebel -- district patron, parent and facilities' committee member -- admitted he wasn't sure about the idea of a new high school when he first heard it at the meeting last week. But, after thinking about it, he said he is willing to hear more about it before making a decision on the bond issue.

"I didn't think about this until Will Cooper brought it up at the meeting," Ebel said. "For a few dollars more a month, we could build a new flagship school and move the rest of the schools up a building. I want to look at this some more, but I am still skeptical of a couple of things.

"First, how much is it going to cost us and, second, where do we put it?" Ebel said. "We should weigh some of the possibilities of doing this. I think we would still need some renovations on the current junior high. But, it seems to me that if we are going to do this, we should do it right and look at all of the issues."

Although the new high school -- with an estimated cost of $30 million -- became the main topic of discussion, the two DLR architects did present cost estimates for ball fields, a practice track and BESPC renovations.

At the previous meeting, a patron asked for a price tag on what it might cost to renovate BESPC. Last week, the DLR architects designed major renovations that would increase capacity to 300 students. The cost was estimated at $6,811,250.

The cost of a new building for 240 students would be just under $10,000,000 and for 480 students would be $12,400,000.

The DLR architects also brought in information regarding the ball fields that are proposed to go near Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center. The previous cost was $1,700,000 and has now jumped to $1,972,000.

If the district wanted to add a practice track and soccer field near BHS, it would cost around $1,515,000. Artificial turf would cost an extra $600,000.

DLR's John Fuller told the committee last week that most voters in a community vote knowing how much they can afford. He said convincing this community to vote yes could be tough, but Ebel has a good feeling the community can be educated.

"The architects said people tend to vote with their pocket books and if that's true, then we can't afford to pass anything," Ebel said. "I'm not in agreement if that is the case, but I'm not sure I'm right either. I think we can do enough educating to pass something with a little bit of meat to it. I hope we can pass something that will fix our long-term needs."

At the end of the meeting, Fuller suggested the committee hire a survey company to poll district patrons on what they will support and how much they are willing to pay. He said it's worked in other communities and might help the committee on a direction to go.

The next facilities' committee meeting hasn't been scheduled yet, but should take place in November.

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