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Facilities committee puts focus on elementary schools

5/19/2013

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

The Hays USD 489 facilities needs committee is taking a closer look at the district's elementary schools.

The committee has been meeting since the winter to craft a recommendation for updating facilities to present to the board of education.

At earlier meetings, the committee discussed closing Washington Elementary School and Rockwell Administration Building. In that event, the Washington building could be repurposed to house Early Childhood Connections, Westside School, the Learning Center and central office staff. Six additional classrooms would be needed for ECC.

"Rather than adding six classrooms onto Washington ... an alternative plan to that would be to move everything to Washington except us," said Will Roth, superintendent.

The district could buy or lease office space for administrative staff at another location, he said.

The former Munjor Elementary School building, currently being used by ECC, also has been discussed as a possible site for Westside School.

Transportation and security, including law enforcement response, in putting the school outside Hays city limits were concerns of some committee members.

Law enforcement currently is called to the school "multiple times a week," said Mark Hauptman, assistant superintendent of special services.

The committee opted to take a step back and dig deeper into economic and staff savings and educational impact if the district had two, three, four or five elementary schools.

"We just wanted to make sure that we had exhausted everything as opposed to got stuck on one thing," said Bryce Young, committee co-chairman.

If fewer than five is determined to be an optimal number, the committee wants to consider savings in each scenario to consider which ones should remain.

"Would that look different depending on which three you choose? Would it look different if you keep O'Loughlin, Wilson and Roosevelt Elementary Schools versus (keeping Wilson, Roosevelt and) Lincoln," Tammy Wellbrock said.

In one three-school scenario, Lincoln Elementary could be repurposed for the Rockwell functions and Washington closed.

"I'm in favor of not closing any of the schools," said Nick Schwien, committee member and The Hays Daily News copy editor. "You can't put a dollar amount on the education kids receive."

Any recommendation from the committee would have to be approved by the board and likely come before voters as a bond issue, so changes will take time.

Committee members have discussed gathering public input and are inclined to wait until after forming a recommendation for the board.

"The sooner we start doing something, the better. ... Ultimately, it's up to the public," Schwien said.

Young said it's a matter of timing.

"We will do it when the information is in a presentable format," he said.