Lawrence school board to vote on bond issue, including energy-efficient projects

Lawrence High School, left, and Free State High School are pictured on Friday, Nov. 6, 2015.

The Lawrence school board on Monday will vote to approve the district’s 2017 capital improvement plan, which includes $87 million of improvements to Lawrence’s secondary schools as part of a proposed 2017 bond issue.

That bond issue, if the board approves a resolution to call for its proposed election, would go to district voters May 2. Board members last month reached a consensus to move several of the bond issue’s proposed improvements “above the line,” bringing the total budget to $87 million.

As of late November, the improvements’ estimated base cost was more than $75.5 million. The reason for what could be perceived as a nearly $12 million hike in price, school board president Marcel Harmon said, could be attributed to the fact that a total budget had never been settled on — up until board members reached a consensus at their Dec. 19 meeting to include what had previously been optional projects in the final plan.

“The total was always really there, but it was a matter of what we wanted to spend versus not,” Harmon said of the $12 million set aside for improvements that would create more energy-efficient spaces, and, proponents say, save the district money in the long run.

The bulk of those newly “above the line” funds, about $9.5 million, will go toward installing exterior and interior LED lights at Free State High School, Liberty Memorial Central Middle School, Southwest Middle School and South Middle School.

Lawrence High School and West Middle School were already slated to receive LED lighting as part of the proposed improvements’ base cost, which would save the district $56,000 a year, according to cost estimates by architecture firm Gould Evans.

The proposed LED projects at the four additional schools, if approved as part of the CIP, would bring those savings to $97,000. Key in this plan, Harmon said, is swapping out existing fluorescent lighting in schools with a more energy-efficient alternative.

“With fluorescent lights, you have to replace the lamps fairly frequently, especially compared to LED lighting, which lasts significantly longer … Essentially, that means a lot of year-to-year operational costs,” Harmon said of the older systems. With LED lights, he continued, “we don’t have to store them or spend time replacing the lamps when they go out, so that results in savings as well.”

Also included in the newly added, energy-efficient projects is the replacement of HVAC equipment in secondary schools. Many were due within the next few years anyway, Harmon said, so the plan to take care of routine replacements while construction crews have already been mobilized, he explained, makes good sense.

The $87 million price tag makes good financial sense, he said, with the savings incurred in energy, utilities and maintenance costs. There’s also a boost in environmental quality that’s not so easy to quantify in dollars, he added. Comforts — among them thermal and visual — as well as improved air quality in the classroom should make a difference for students and staff alike, Harmon said.

“It makes the teachers’ job easier and it makes the students’ learning easier,” he said. “We certainly don’t want the building to work against our goals of improving education for everybody.”

In other business, the board will:

• Hear a report on the examination of high school course options from Angelique Nedved, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, and Terry McEwen, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment.

• Vote for the approval of a resolution authorizing and providing for the calling of a 2017 bond election. The resolution, drafted by district officials, will be presented by finance director Kathy Johnson and Superintendent Kyle Hayden.

The school board will meet at 7 p.m. at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive.