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List of needs still taking shape

12/22/2013

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

The lists of needs has been checked and rechecked, and architects are coming up with plans and costs as the USD 489 facilities needs committee gets down to work crafting a recommendation for the board of education.

The community volunteers began meeting about a year ago.

The group began its work by touring all of the district's facilities -- classrooms to kitchens and offices to furnace rooms.

District administrators also provided information.

After the building tours, school stakeholders -- including staff members, site councils and parent organizations -- were asked to generate lists of building needs and wants.

During the past several months, those lists have been honed down as the committee met with representatives from HTK Architects.

HTK representatives and central office administrators met with building principals to finalize their lists.

Superintendent Dean Katt presented the administrators' recommendations Tuesday.

The committee came to a consensus with Katt's recommendation to close Washington Elementary School and Rockwell Administration Center.

The district expects to sell both buildings eventually, but a large selling price is unlikely.

"You can always find somebody who will come in and speculate ... it's tough to renovate," said Aaron White, executive director of the Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development and a committee member.

The cost to gut the building and renovate is "almost the cost of new construction," he said.

Under the proposal, Early Childhood Connections classes will be relocated to new classrooms at Wilson Elementary School.

With the early childhood classes moving out of the other elementary schools and a proposed classroom addition at Roosevelt Elementary School, the district would have 14 sections of each elementary grade level.

The most recent proposal also includes new special education units at some schools.

No new classrooms would be added at Hays Middle School or Hays High School, but each would have a new entry and other improvements.

Committee members haven't reached a consensus on the whole recommendation, and asked architects to return with costs for the administration's list.

More tweaking of the lists could follow.

"There's a lot more than the numbers (costs), too ... like how many seats in the auditorium, so I think there's some more numbers we need," said Tammy Wellbrock, Hays Area Chamber of Commerce executive director.

The committee will make a recommendation to the board, and the board will decide whether to move forward asking voters to approve a bond issue to pay for the improvements.

The next meeting is scheduled for 7 a.m. Jan. 10.