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Archive for Monday, November 2, 1998

BOND ISSUE QUESTION: TO BUILD OR TO BUS?

November 2, 1998

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Lawrence school district voters on Tuesday will decide the fate of the school bond issue.

It's the $16.6 million dollar question, and it will be answered Tuesday.

Lawrence school district voters will go to the polls Tuesday to decide if they'll approve the district's latest bond issue.

Its cornerstone component is construction of a $6.4 million elementary school in west Lawrence to ease overcrowding in schools in that vicinity.

"The need is pretty evident," said Maley Wilkins, Lawrence school board president.

The new school, projected to be about 52,000 square feet, could hold up to 525 students. Many of those students would come from Quail Run and Sunflower schools, which have operated with above-capacity enrollments the past three years. The remainder are projected to live in new housing in the area that is yet to be completed.

While the board has entertained the idea of busing students from the west side of the city to under-enrolled schools on the east side, it's not an option that Wilkins considers feasible.

"We have to address the question of `Do we build or do we bus?'" Wilkins said. "The board goes with building."

The new school would be built west of Wakarusa Drive on land the district already owns.

"We've got the location, and that site," Asst. Supt. Craig Fiegel said. "That's all established."

Operating costs for the school are not a part of the question to be placed before voters.

School additions

The bond issue also includes additions to Prairie Park and Woodlawn schools.

Prairie Park was built as part of a 1992 bond package. Board members at the time said they knew that the school eventually would need an addition to meet growth in southeast Lawrence.

"I just don't think they anticipated it would be this soon," said Leni Salkind, who was elected to the board five years later, in 1997.

The board decided at the time of the 1992 bond election to include only two sections of each grade at Prairie Park. Now, the district's standard is for three sections per school.

Woodlawn would get a new library in its expansion. The school's current library, which once housed two classrooms, would be returned to classroom space or used for other purposes.

A new library at Woodlawn would provide relief for librarians and staff members who work with students either in the reading or media center, library media coordinator Beth Welsh said.

"The issue now is enough visual space and control," she said. "It's hard to arrange the room for activities and continue to do everything you'd like."

Repairs, renovations

In addition, Woodlawn would get new windows and roof repairs.

Other facilities scheduled for repairs to windows, roofs and lighting under the bond issue include Broken Arrow, East Heights, Kennedy, Schwegler, Sunset Hill and Quail Run schools, Lawrence High School Annex, and Central, South and West junior high schools.

Pinckney School, too, will get an elevator under the bond issue. The elementary school library on the second floor does not meet standards outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). An elevator would bring the school into ADA compliance.

Regardless of whether the bond issue passes, the school will need to be brought up to ADA standards, Wilkins said.

"The money would come from capital outlay dollars and the timing would be uncertain" if the bond issue fails, she said. "There could be a phase-in period."

The final component of the bond issue is the distribution and maintenance facility. The district currently uses six warehouses for storage space and rents a storage facility north of town for paper storage.

The bond issue would eliminate the need for deliveries to schools from multiple locations, and would allow the district to make more bulk purchases, which would save money.

"Right now, for example, if we need to deliver paper, furniture and supplies to Cordley, it comes on three trucks from three places," Fiegel said. "That's not very efficient. If we were all in the same building, we could say, `What do we have going to this building today?' load it up all at once and then the job is done."

The district has not yet determined where the expanded maintenance and storage facility would be.

If approved, the bond issue would be the third in a row to get the OK from voters. A 1992 bond issue made way for the construction of Prairie Park and Sunflower schools and Southwest Junior High. A 1994 bond issue resulted in the construction of Free State High School.

-- JL Watson's phone message number is 932-7145. Her e-mail address is jwatson@ljworld.com.

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