Plans for a bond issue in the Lawrence school district came into a little more focus Monday night as architects working on the project outlined the priorities for how proceeds from the bonds would be used.
John Wilkins, a principal in the design firm Gould Evans and Associates, updated the Lawrence school board on the project design during an informal work session before the board’s regular meeting.
The board hasn’t yet determined how large of a bond issue it will ask voters to approve next spring, but the main purpose would be to upgrade older elementary schools in East and central Lawrence. Money would also be used for improvements in other buildings, as well as technology upgrades throughout the district.
Wilkins said the “core” elementary schools all need additional space in order to bring them up to the same standards as the district’s newer schools and accommodate future growth in student enrollment. He listed the needs in order of priorities:
• Priority 1: Adding space to replace portable facilities used at some buildings and allow each building to have separate cafeterias and gymnasiums.
• Priority 2: Increasing the square footage in each room to make the ratio of square feet per student comparable to that of more spacious buildings elsewhere in the district, a process that could involve reconfiguring walls and combining rooms.
• Priority 3: Increasing the square footage to meet national guidelines for newly constructed school buildings, with a focus of improving six core buildings “a step beyond the district norm.”
In addition to expanding those facilities, Wilkins said, plans call for improving energy efficiency throughout the district. That may include installing photovoltaic generators and other renewable energy devices to make some buildings “net-zero” energy consumers, meaning they produce at least as much energy as they use.
Wilkins said he believes the project can encompass all of those items and stay within the board’s goal of keeping the bond issue to about $90 million.
That’s roughly how much the district can raise through a new bond issue without raising taxes or having to seek permission from the Kansas State Board of Education to go beyond the statutory debt limit of 14 percent of assessed valuation.
When asked for their feedback, board members said they generally agreed with the outline of the plan and did not recommend that the architects scale back any of the plans.
In other business, the board:
• Heard details from Kansas Department of Transportation officials about plans to build an interchange on Kansas Highway 10 at Bob Billings Parkway, near Langston Hughes School, that would require the purchase of a small amount of real estate owned by the district.
• Appointed Michelle Fales to the district’s Finance Advisory Council.