Archive for Thursday, June 17, 2004

Architects to aid school planning efforts

June 17, 2004

Because local voters don't exactly greet ballot questions for new school construction with open arms, officials from the Basehor-Linwood School District are careful to point out their latest action isn't a case of laying the tracks for another bond issue.

"The question I'm asked the most is are we going to go for another bond issue," school district superintendent Jill Hackett said. "The answer is yes, eventually we will have to do something.

"When that will be we don't know. We're continuing to monitor growth patterns. Once all those homes fill we know we're going to have more families in our community and more children in our school. That's all we really know right now."

On Monday night, the Basehor-Linwood School Board unanimously approved beginning discussions with Horst Terrill and Karst Architects.

That is the school district's architecture firm, and the same group that designed new school construction plans for two failed bond issue proposals last year.

The purpose behind beginning discussions with the firm is to help the district monitor growth within the school district, which spans roughly 90 square miles, and to coordinate long-term facilities planning.

The firm's hiring is for refining planning projections only, reiterated Don Swartz, school district director of building operations.

"They'll help project out our needs as far as they can," Swartz said. "We have absolutely no preconceived plans of what might be built or where it could be built."

Hiring the firm falls in line with a recommendation from the district advisory council--a group of Basehor and Linwood residents advising district officials on education-related matters -- to create a long-range plan that includes necessary land, site locations and designs and grade configurations of future buildings.

The firm is scheduled for an initial meeting with school district officials next week.

Firm representatives will also meet throughout the summer with the school district's administrative team to discuss projections, demographics and current and future numbers.

The absolute earliest a bond issue could be proposed is late spring of 2005, Hackett said, but there are no indications as of yet that will happen.

Hackett said any bond issue proposed by the school district under her watch would be a cooperative effort between administrators, educators and most importantly, taxpayers. Any future bond issue will be a blend of "advice of experts and opinions of those in the community."

"I understand that we need a plan that is affordable, feasible and reasonable," the superintendent said. "We think that what we do in the future has to be reflective of what our community wants."

Hackett said the work of the district advisory council, a group formed shortly after she assumed the superintendent's post in July 2003, has been instrumental in understanding taxpayer apprehensions about past bond issues and suggestions for future ones.

The group will not meet again until next school year, but she said the school district hopes for even more participation in the group's second session.

"It's never too late to join," she said. "I really appreciate the work they have done this year."

Gaining the public's support of any local bond issue would be a noteworthy achievement in itself.

In 2003, the school district proposed two $30 million bond issues that failed at the polls, the second by a wider margin than the first.

Earlier this year, a Basehor Community Library bond issue joined the ranks of failed proposals as voters found the $3.79 million price tag too steep.

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