School district seeks bond for new school
There is no time better than now. That's the conclusion of the Goldendale School District bond committee, according to Superintendent Mark Heid. With that sentiment in mind, the school has decided to proceed with a $32 million bond asking to be put to the voters in the Goldendale School District 404 on April 26.
The bond committee was asked to look at options to make needed improvements at all three campuses, said Heid. Each school has a list of needed upgrades. "There is no fluff in this plan," says Heid. Each of the items addresses shortfalls and in some cases mandatory improvements at the three schools.
The most drastic of those is the high school, which the committee concluded should be built anew, preserving only the existing gym and locker room area. After looking at the numbers presented by project manager, Milt Ketchum, it appeared that a new school could be built for the cost of the major upgrade that would be required in the current school. There are several things that make this true, according to Heid. One factor is housing the students while you renovate the existing school. Whereas portable classrooms were used to accomplish such things in the past, today's regulations require more permanent structures with a foundation and better wiring. The new high school can be built while the current school continues to be in use. Another factor is that the new school would actually cover 9,000 fewer square feet than the old school due to more efficient configuration. The poor economy, which might seem to be a disadvantage, actually helps because construction costs may be as much as 20 to 24 percent lower than one would have expected in a robust economy, said Heid.
The new school construction will begin in 2012, if the bond issue passes. According to the plan, the new school will be built south of the current school in the area currently used for student parking. A school bus loop will be built along Roosevelt Avenue. A wrestling room and practice gym will be added to the west end of the current gym and locker rooms will be improved. A larger cafeteria, commons area will be built with improvements in the food preparation area. There will be two main hallways to minimize the area that takes 26 cameras to monitor under the present configuration. The technical connectivity will be wireless, something not feasible with the current block wall construction. That translates into an enhanced educational process, according to Heid. "Student learning will become more flexible in the fact that any place in the building they will be able to access portable lap top computers in combination with the state of the art equipment each classroom will hold to enhance students' problem solving skills," said Heid.
Another key addition is the inclusion of a 400-seat auditorium. Since the middle school auditorium was lost in the fire of 1987, the gymnasiums have been used as auditoriums. The new facility will be designed for school and public functions that require a more acoustically appropriate venue. Heid points to the near constant use the school has for public functions in making the case for such a facility.
Upgrades will be made at the middle and primary schools. Those upgrades include windows, roof, wiring, doors, and new band room at the middle school and doing away with the portable classrooms at the primary school and adding two classrooms to the first grade wing of the primary school. The current high school will house the middle school students during 2013 while the middle school upgrades take place. The current high school will be torn down in 2014.
There will also be some outside upgrades, including adding two tennis courts at the high school and improving football field grand stands with rest rooms and an enlarged concession area. The area between the student parking lot and Simcoe Drive will be improved to handle community use fields, such as soccer fields which currently use school grounds west of the building.
Heid says the plan calls for a $32 million bond, which would be paid for by taxpayers at the rate of approximately $1.87 per $1,000 of property valuation over 20 years. Building the new school would make the district eligible for approximately $12 million in matching funds from the state. When the matching money is received, most of it will be used to pay off the bond debt, thus lowering the taxes to approximately $1.55 per thousand, estimates Heid.
Heid and the bond committee will be working to educate the public about the plan between now and April 8, when the ballots are mailed. The next public meeting will be held in the high school cafeteria at 6:30 p.m ., this Thursday, Jan. 13. The plans will be presented along with preliminary cost estimates. A tour of the school will be included to make the case for the need to upgrade GHS. Other community and neighborhood meetings are planned to ensure the public is fully informed prior to the vote.