Board narrows down facility options at special meeting

One of the construction options includes a new shop building west of the current AES building. The board will vote Monday on a proposal to take to voters.

The USD 329 BOE gathered Monday to narrow the remaining options for a bond proposal.  

The remaining options include a K-12 in Alma, renovations to the existing buildings or a K-6 in Paxico and 7-12 in Alma. The board will vote Monday on which to propose to the community for a vote in April. Here are some of the highlights of discussion from the special meeting.

Option 16

Option 16 started off the discussion for the night. Maria Kutina, one of the project architects, explained the option. A K-6 would be in Paxico and a 7-12 would be in Alma. In Paxico the gym, cafeteria and library would be kept, but the rest would be demolished. New classrooms would be built on the north and south side of the remaining. Seventh and eighth grade would move to the annex of the elementary school in Alma and the district office would be moved to the shop building. The AES multi-purpose room would be converted into the wrestling room. The existing wrestling room, modulars and main AES building would be demolished. A new shop building for most CTE classes would be built between the high school and elementary along with enclosed walkways between all buildings. With an enclosed walkway, the bus road would have to be closed. 

The board members suggested potentially having a skywalk to transfer between the high school and seventh and eighth grade area to keep the road open. The architects agreed and said that could happen, but would have to ask the city.

Option 10

Board member Kelly Oliver expressed her desire for the K-12 building. She explained how bus routes could be more efficient due to only having to go to one school and thinks there would be less crossing paths. The board members then discussed the idea of the K-12 building. Option 10 is a K-12 building in Alma, but another option for the K-12 is to rebuild in a new location that is centralized, 4 miles away from Alma.

President Justin Frank asked if it was in their best interest to spend extra money to not only build a new building, but also new athletic facilities. The board agreed quickly that four miles was not worth it just to be centralized. 

$3.2 Million

A popular number at the board meetings recently is $3.2 million. That number is the amount for renovations at the high school. Option 16 has the choice to choose between paying $3.2 million to renovate the old building at WHS or $4.6 million to rebuild. The board agreed they would rather spend  the $4 million to demolish and rebuild due to the concerns with the building. Option 12 uses this number also for renovations to the high school. This $8 million option is the cheapest bond and only deals with renovating the existing buildings. Jerome Hess favors this option because he knows the community will choose to pass it. The other members aren’t on board with the idea of passing the bare minimum. Justin Frank said again that he did not want to go from bond to bond to keep up with the maintenance of the buildings, instead he wants to find a solution that will last at least 50 years.

Condition of the Buildings

New board member Jim Vopata got the chance to travel to the buildings in the district with head of maintenance Freddie Johnson. Vopata described what he saw at some of the buildings. He said that the new part of WHS seems to be kept up well and was in good shape. Vopata then said that he had concerns with the old building. He saw problems with the foundation, roof and separation on the chimney. The shop, wrestling room and bus barn also need work according to Vopata.  He also agreed that the old part of the junior high was not in good condition. Finally he explained that the elementary schools were in decent condition and could potentially last a little longer.

Bond Length

Finally the board agreed to possibly consider how long the bond would last at the next board meeting. They said with a more expensive bond, they suggest looking into a 25-year bond instead of only 20 years. This would decrease the amount taxpayers would have to pay annually.

— Kaytlyn Meske, @kaytlyn_nelle

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