Archive for Thursday, February 23, 2006

District’s pace lags others in building

February 23, 2006

Ten months after voters approved a $23.6 million school bond issue in Lansing, designs for the planned elementary school and high school auditorium have been approved just this week.

With the action, the projects are expected to be let for bid in July, school board president Brian Bode said last week,

That will be about 15 months after the bond issue was passed. Bode also said the project completion dates had been pushed back from August 2007 to November 2007, and the opening date of both buildings is now expected to be in January 2008.

Progress on the projects may seem slow, but board vice president Shelly Gowdy defended the board's cautious stance at a special meeting Monday.

"I would rather, as the carpenters say, measure twice, cut once, and have the building the way we want it," she said.

Compared with other districts that passed similar-sized bond issues in the 2004-05 school year, Lansing's progress is lagging.

Three districts at first glance seem much further ahead of Lansing in progress on their bond projects, but each had a six-month head start. Tonganoxie, Shawnee Heights and Ottawa school districts all passed bond issues in November 2004.

Shawnee Heights school district has moved faster than other districts in its projects. The district is in the midst of a $25.8 million bond project that includes extensive remodeling, new roofs and an overhaul of mechanical and electrical systems in several buildings, as well as building a commons/cafeteria area to the high school.

Groundbreaking took place last spring, superintendent Marty Stessman said. Two projects, newly remodeled classrooms at Shawnee Heights' two elementary schools, are completed already, Stessman said. The high school addition is behind schedule, he said, but is still expected to be completed by August.

The other Shawnee Heights projects are expected to be finished by September 2007, he said, but the roofing projects may be extended. If the projects do hold up to their timelines, the bond projects would all be completed almost three years after they were approved.

Construction also began last spring in Ottawa school district. That district's plans included building a new elementary school, doubling the size of its current elementary school and building an addition to and renovating part of the high school with its $25.9 million bond issue, said Earl Devore, owner of Devore and Associates Architects, the firm working on the district's projects.

The Ottawa high school addition was finished ahead of schedule last fall, Devore said, and is being occupied already. The other projects are "right on the mark," he said. The new elementary is scheduled to open in the fall, and at the other elementary, the addition should be complete this summer and renovations on the rest of the building should be finished by the end of the year, he said.

In total, all of the Ottawa projects should be finished about two years after the bond issue passed.

In Tonganoxie, the district is building a new middle school for grades five through eight, remodeling its elementary school and building additions and renovations at the high school, a $25.3 million project.

Superintendent Richard Erickson said construction crews broke ground on the projects in August, nine months after the bond issue passed. Erickson said the district so far was ahead of schedule. He said he hoped to have students in the new middle and high school facilities by Jan. 1, 2007, about a year before construction is expected to be finished on Lansing's school buildings.

The remodeled Tonganoxie elementary school should be completed by August 2007, he said. That's about two years after breaking ground on the projects and close to three since the bond issue was approved.

El Dorado school district is the most similar timeline to Lansing, but it is still moving faster on its projects. The district passed a $19.6 million bond issue last April to build a new high school in two phases. Superintendent Tom Biggs said the district would be ready to let bids mid-March, and groundbreaking is scheduled for May

The first phase in El Dorado, which includes building an academic wing onto the current high school, is slated to be completed in July or August of 2007, and the second phase, which Biggs said encompasses the demolition of 80 percent of the current facility and building a new commons area, kitchen, auditorium and administration area, is expected to be completed in the summer of 2008.

The whole project would be completed more than three years after the bond issue was passed, if it stays on schedule.

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