The Lawrence school district is officially on board with a proposal that would place a new teen center for the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence next to the district's new College and Career Center.
The Lawrence school board on Monday night approved a motion stating the club could specify the district property along the 2900 block of Haskell Avenue as the proposed location for the building during its fundraising campaign.
Now that the school board has given its thumbs up, Superintendent Rick Doll said, the district and the club will begin discussing land and building ownership.
"We'll start to ask those legal questions," he said.
Colby Wilson, executive director for the club, estimates the building will cost around $5 million. He would like it to have a full-size gym, technology center, kitchen, dance room and classroom space, among other amenities. He envisions a building with space for up to 250 kids at a time, with the capability of feeding them all hot meals.
The coming campaign to get the money — which Wilson is confident will be successful — will be the first of its kind for Lawrence's Boys and Girls Club. He said the club would likely need 12 to 18 months to gather the money before breaking ground.
He said it felt "really good" to have the board's approval.
"It just confirms what we learned, that there's a need," he said. "We are very excited for this idea."
Randy Masten was the only board member to vote against the item. He said that while he supports a new teen center, he thought officials could have taken more time to consider other properties the district owns across the city.
"We could've looked into it more," he said.
The rest of the board expressed enthusiasm for the idea. Doll said the location is ideal since the new teen center would provide a commercial kitchen that could house the district's culinary arts program. He said he wants to move the program out of the Community Connection Center at 2600 W. 25th St.
Wilson said the club was originally interested in a building near the proposed police headquarters on McDonald Drive, but the idea was scrapped when voters denied a sales tax to fund the project.
The club is interested in a new teen center, Wilson said, because its current facility, 1520 Haskell Ave., is outdated and at capacity with 75 kids visiting daily. He also said the club wants to increase its membership among middle and high schoolers five-fold, to 1,000.
"We want to keep kids involved, keep them in mentoring programs beyond elementary school," Wilson said last week. "There's 1,000 to 1,500 kids that are not engaged in anything after school."
Construction for the 33,000-square-foot, $5.7 million College and Career Center began in September 2014, with its opening planned for this August. It will provide courses in engineering, computer technology, robotics, public safety, bioscience, health care and administration, with opportunities for tuition-free college credit.
Also next door will be the Dwayne Peaslee Technical Education Center for adults, which will operate out of the former Honeywell Industries building. Organizers are still in the fundraising process for that project.