Open house provides public forum

Following the results of a community wide telephone survey regarding the facility needs of Broken Bow Public Schools, the school board agreed to take another bond issue proposal to the voters. During an Open House at North Park school Tuesday evening, details of the bond issue were outlined to a large number of district patrons. In fact, the Open House was so successful that the school board and administration has decided to host another one next Tuesday. Unlike this week's open house, however, the next one will include a tour of the facility during school hours so individuals have an opportunity to see first-hand some of the challenges during the lunch hour, recess and P.E., as well as the space issues the school faces every day. The Open House will be Sept. 6 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., with administrators, school board members and the project's architect on hand to present information and answer any questions from the public. At Tuesday's open house, visitors got the chance to visualize what the proposed 27,000-square-foot addition will encompass in terms of space on the property. Yard flags marked where the walls of the addition would go. In touring the outside area of the building, it was explained the upper elementary and lower elementary will each have their own playground. However, the second playground is not part of the bond issue and fundraisers will likely be held later to pay for that playground. The cement basketball court/play area that is already in place at North Park will stay. The playground at Custer will also remain where it is, making an ideal play area for 5th and 6th grade students who would be housed there. The area for the proposed multi-purpose room at North Park was staked out as well. Administrators explained while this room can serve many functions it will be pretty basic, at least in the beginning. There will be no bleachers, and there will not be a hardwood floor in the room. Rather it will be fit with linoleum flooring. Staff say it is their plan to hold fundraisers further down the road to pay for bleacher seating if needed. "What we have asked the architect to do is give us square footage," explained BBPS Superintendent Dr. Virginia Moon. "That is our top priority." The multi-purpose room would be used for P.E. and recess when it is too cold to go outside. "Right now if it's cold outside the kids have to stay in their classrooms," said teacher Mary Jane Garner. "They have no place to go for recess when it's cold." One of the questions that arose during the outside tour of the flagged area concerned the grade of the land. Several residents could recall a time when enough water would flood into that area that kids could ice skate there. Dr. Moon assured the crowd that the architects had addressed that issue in their building plans. An area along the street on the north side of the school was also staked out to represent where the land will be cut out to develop a site for loading and unloading students. Teachers on hand said the recent change to the north side of the building for drop off and pick up of kids has already greatly alleviated a lot of the traffic problems. The new drop off site would let the kids out in front of the lower elementary area, providing greater safety for the youngest students. The addition would be built to the east of the existing building and would require relocating the current playground area. This new building would house kindergarten and first grade in larger classrooms than they currently have. The kindergarten rooms would also have their own bathrooms. After touring outside and getting an idea of the plans for the addition, the groups were led inside for a tour of the building and an explanation of renovation plans. One of the specific items pointed out was the carpet, which has been in place for nearly the life of the building in some of the rooms, and has begun to come up and formed large wrinkles. With this bond the plan is to replace that flooring, which can cause a tripping hazard for little feet. "These rooms are very usable, so that we don't have to do a lot of work to them," said Dr. Moon addressing one of the groups she was leading on the tour. All new energy-efficient lighting has already been installed throughout the building, which is just one of the upgrades the facilities have received over the summer. "At Custer last week the air conditioning came on and there was a great cry of joy," said Dr. Moon with a broad smile. The flooring in the lunchroom at North Park was replaced last December during Christmas break. The bond project calls for the current freezers and refrigerators in the kitchen to be replaced with walk-through coolers, and the kitchen itself will be expanded a few feet to the north adding more storage. One question that seems to come up time and time again is why the school needs more space now than it did several years ago for the same number of students. Elementary principal Kim Jonas offers several explanations for that, the main one being the switch from half-day kindergarten to full days. That change alone has required the use of two more classrooms than previously needed. Special education students and English language learners have also increased significantly, and both require more space. The standards for teaching have changed as well over the years, and teachers and administrators work hard to maintain no more than 18-20 students in elementary classrooms to achieve the highest level of academic success. Another issue that has commonly been raised in discussions about the school and a possible bond involves the roof at North Park. At the open house, the project's architect , Grant Craeger, explained that both the new addition and the current building will have a pitch roof which will match when the project is completed. Facilities committee chair Ken Myers has said he believes the leaky roof at the school has caused more of the foundation issues that the land has caused. The bond itself is for a total of $5.83 million, which is the amount of low-interest financing available to the district. This would be a 15-year bond, with a net interest rate of less than 1 percent. These funds are not available to the district after 2011. The school district valuation was certified Aug. 20, 2011, and current interest rates are now lower than previously reported. This information was adjusted by the bonding agent Aug. 24 to reflect the project requiring an 8.76 cent levy. That means if you have $100,000 worth of property, the projected annual tax bill for this project would be $87.60, or $7.30 a month. If your property is valued at $50,000 your bill for the project would be $43.80, or $3.65 a month. This year, the school budgeted for heating and cooling upgrades and new windows at the Middle School and Custer School, with funds for these projects coming from the building fund and general fund. The school board, staff and administration have prioritized future building projects and developed a "road map" that ensures needs are addressed through appropriate planning and budgeting. However, large projects are not possible out of the district budget, which is why, the board says, a bond issue is needed. The engineering firm for the project is CG Architects of North Platte, who has been working with the school to develop a building plan that falls within its project budget of $5.83 million. Any preliminary drawings and project estimates will be provided by CG Architects. The construction firm is B-D Construction of Kearney, who will work as construction managers at risk. Through the construction manager at risk process, costs are guaranteed not to exceed a set price. If costs exceed that price, the construction firm is responsible for the difference. Construction managers also seek bids on portions of projects, instead of relying on a single contractor who selects sub-contractors. This provides greater opportunity for local companies and suppliers to work on the project. Don't forget - if you were unable to make it to this week’s Open House you still have another opportunity to see the project and ask any questions prior to the Sept. 13 election. Join CG Architects, and members of the school board and administration Tuesday, Sept. 6, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at North Park School. And most importantly, don't forget to make your voice heard - vote.