2018-05-03 / Front Page

Voters to determine fate of school project

By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

THE PLANS (left) call for construction of a two-story elementary building with a combined area of 38,400 square-feet; a new 17,000-square-foot gymnasium; secured entrance with screening; new testing space; two middle classrooms; parking; expanded playground and parking area. The ‘old gym’ on the south end of the complex dates back more than 60 years and will be leveled.THE PLANS (left) call for construction of a two-story elementary building with a combined area of 38,400 square-feet; a new 17,000-square-foot gymnasium; secured entrance with screening; new testing space; two middle classrooms; parking; expanded playground and parking area. The ‘old gym’ on the south end of the complex dates back more than 60 years and will be leveled.
Voters in the Leland School District will go to the polls Tuesday to decide the fate of a $24.6 million bond request to fund building renovations and construction of a new gymnasium.

The Board of Education is seeking to sell bonds to fund improvements to the school, including demolition of some portions of the facility that date back to the 1930s.

“It will provide appropriate class size education space matching our academic programs,” superintendent Jason Stowe said.

The proposal, the first building project sought since 2001, has drawn keen interest within the community. Some five letters appear in this week’s editorial section; last week School Board president Bill Robinson provided a forum urging passage.

Proposed plans include construction of a new, two-story elementary school to replace the oldest portion of the facility with infrastructure dating back to the 1930s and ‘50s.

Currently, elementary students are housed in separate, one-story wings — one for lower elementary and the second, upper elementary.

The new two-story elementary wing would have younger students at ground level and older students above.

The classrooms would be larger and “collaborative” space has been included to facilitate group projects.

“So much of what we do is project-based group work. That’s vital to how we teach and the space we have not is not appropriate for that,” Stowe said.

Two new middle school classrooms are also planned as is a remodel of the high school media center and improved testing space for all grades levels.

The bond proposal would also pay for a redesigned school entrance to improve security with visitor screening; improved parent drop-off areas and additional parking.

And at the far north end of the school a new 17,000-square-foot gym is proposed.

“The new full-size gym will allow us to get kids in and out so they aren’t practicing at 9 p.m.,” Stowe said.

The $24.6 million bond proposal would require an average of 2.02 mills in property taxes paid annually over 26 years to retire.

Leland taxpayers are presently paying 1.41 mills for a bond passed in 2001 that will be fully repaid in 2021.

The bond proposal represents the culmination of more than two years of study by the board’s facilities committee.

In February 2016, the district hired Natura Architectural Consulting to evaluate the facilities.

TowerPinskster was hired as architect in March 2017 and Miller-Davis Construction was hired as construction manager in May 2017.

Payment to these companies is contingent upon passage of the bond proposal.

Last fall the board held a series of three meetings to solicit input on the facilities proposal and surveys (both electronic and paper) were distributed for further outreach.

Three options were presented by the facilities committee.

Concept A, a minimal approach, called for replacement of classrooms built in the 30s and renovations to the 1950s wing and replacement of the old gym with one of similar size.

This was the least expensive option with an estimated price tag of $15 million.

A second option called for a two-story elementary on the east side of the complex; renovations to the entrance; creation of space designated for testing and a new gymnasium at the site of the older gym on south end of the facility.

Gym plans were for one of similar size which is not regulation.

That plan had an estimated cost of $23 million.

The favored option had an initial estimate of $21.5 million. However the price edged up after public input that called for a larger entrance foyer; additional playground space, a fire pump; generator and “heavy remodeling,” Stowe said.

If approved architects would continue to refine plans and prepare documents to go out for bids in January 2019, Stowe said.

Work would begin that spring with construction of two middle school classrooms at the north end of the building. During summer break, the upper elementary classrooms on the south end of the complex would be demolished; reconstruction of the main entrance would get underway as would construction of the new gym.

Barring any hiccups, the classrooms and facility will be ready when students report for the 2020-21 school year.

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