Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New elementary school, upgrades to high school top facilities needs

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 6/16/2014

A new elementary school. A new science wing at the high school. Updating security at every school building.

David White read aloud a list of possible Ottawa school district facility improvements that touched each school building — in addition to constructing a new one — during a June 9 school board meeting.

A new elementary school. A new science wing at the high school. Updating security at every school building.

David White read aloud a list of possible Ottawa school district facility improvements that touched each school building — in addition to constructing a new one — during a June 9 school board meeting.

Since it’s not feasible to do everything on the list at once, the school board plans to gather conceptual designs and cost estimates from area architects to try and pinpoint what is possible.

The list relayed by the school board president was based on the school district Facilities Committee’s work since the collection of parents, senior citizens, business leaders, city leaders, county leaders, staff, three school board members and other volunteers began meeting in fall 2013 to address facility needs across the district.

To address these district-wide needs, the school board and Jeanne Stroh, Ottawa superintendent, launched a facilities upgrade initiative in the fall, based on the results of a community survey by ETC Institute that gauged public opinion about what renovations might win community support. The survey, delivered to the district in March 2013 by the Olathe-based research firm, showed 84 percent of respondents said they would support improvements to Ottawa High School, 1120 S. Ash St., with 61 percent in favor of remodeling the high school.

Also in that survey of district patrons, 27 percent of respondents said they would support the remodeling of Eugene Field Elementary School, 720 Tremont Ave., and building an addition to Garfield Elementary School, 1213 S. College St.

School administrators and site councils had been putting together lists of needs for their buildings at the start of the 2013-2014 school year leading up to the Facilities Committee being formed. In the fall, Stroh charged the committee with separating “the wants from the needs,” in addition to identifying facility needs that were not on the original lists.

The list unveiled June 9 represented what the Facilities Committee determined were genuine needs in the district, Bill Allegre, school board member and committee representative, said.

“That’s the summary of the big idea that came from the Facilities Committee,” Allegre said. “It’s a lot of work, primary a new elementary school and some major additions to the high school and looking at other smaller things throughout the district.”

The Facilities Committee is recommending the school board send out a request for proposal to area architects for conceptual drawings and possible costs associated with the improvements, Stroh told the board June 9.

“We want to see how much this would cost,” Allegre said of the list.

The committee thought architects would provide the information at no charge, anticipating they would earn a percentage of a huge project later on, Allegre said.

“Everything on this list was considered a need by the Facilities Committee,” Allegre said. “This idea was supported 100 percent by the Facilities Committee — it wasn’t a close vote.”

The school board voted 6-0 to submit a request for proposal to area architects who have experience designing school buildings. The board did not set a timetable for gathering those proposals.

The school district needs to identify architects who are doing good work in the area and specialize in designing schools, Dennis George, school board member, said.

“I want architects that are not necessarily wanting to do their own style but something very practical that ties into the local community,” George said.

Susan Ward and Lynda Alderman, school board members, agreed they wanted to hear from architects who have extensive experience in designing schools.

The architects should have “a significant body of work they can show us,” Ward said.

Once the architects have completed their conceptual drawings and determined cost estimates, they would meet with the Facilities Committee.

“The [Facilities] Committee will make a recommendation to the board in terms of which drawings, what costs, those kind of things,” Stroh said. “After the committee makes a recommendation, then at that time the [school] board can decide whether to go out for a bond issue or not.”

District voters last approved a bond issue in 2005. That $25.9 million bond issue paid for the construction of Lincoln Elementary School, 1102 N. Milner Road, as well as expansion of Garfield, improvements to the music area at the high school and technology upgrades throughout the district, according to Herald archives.

The school board would have to determine what improvements are feasible, Stroh said, and submitting a request for proposal does not commit the school board to moving forward with any of the proposed facility improvements on the list.

“This doesn’t mean we are going out for a bond issue,” Stroh said of gathering information from architects. “This simply means we are going to find out how much these things would cost the district.”

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