Focus committee provides recommendation to USD 421 board

LYNDON—The USD 421 Focus Committee continued development of plans that will likely result in a bond issue for the district at its third, and likely final, meting Dec. 18.

“Because this committee didn’t expand and develop exactly as we had planned, there remained a larger share of school employees on the committee than anticipated,” said USD 421 Superintendent Brian Spencer. “The final composition truly seems to represent the entire range of ideas in the community. The discussion on Dec. 18 was very beneficial to the process.”

The focus committee meeting discussed and expanded on seven concepts, several carried over from previous meetings, which developed into two primary needs:

• There is a need for increased security and safety in the areas of tornado shelters, controlling building access, and crossing the street.

• The current facilities continue to age.

State aid and equalization assistance was also noted as a major part of the project.

“One thing that was obvious from the meeting is that not everyone will fully agree with what is ultimately proposed by the Board of Education,” said Spencer. “The board is the group that will ultimately present the proposal for consideration.”

The committee reviewed five concepts and two concept revisions as presented by project architect Dave Emig.

Concept 3, which closes Seventh Street to move the elementary and middle school north of the existing high school. The district office would move into the newest addition of the elementary, the gym would be maintained, but everything else south of Sixth Street would be vacated. Drawings for an alternative, Concept 3.1, included no new gym and locker rooms.

Concept 4 maintains the current building configuration, but replaces the oldest buildings with new one story construction, and closes Sixth Street during the school day.

Concept 6 repeated the fundamentals of Concept 3, but utilizes monolithic domes for more efficient construction. Alternative 6.1 completes the task with a smaller gym, cafeteria and auditorium storm shelter area.

Concept 7 renovates and remodels existing buildings with a new monolithic dome for a cafeteria and practice gymnasium. This concept also closes Sixth Street during the school day.

Concept 8 repeated concept 7, but utilizes traditional construction.

According to Spencer, concepts 3, 3.1, 6 and 6.1 were the only drawings that addressed the consensus statements.

In a vote of committee members, Concept 6 (monolithic domes) was preferred to Concept 3 (traditional construction) by a vote of 9 to 5. Concept 6.1 (smaller construction) was preferred over Concept 6 by a 9 to 4 vote.

For a final vote, the committee was asked, “Does a referendum on Concept 6 have a chance to pass?” By a 10-4 vote, the committee felt it would, recommending to the Board of Education that:

“There is need for increased security and safety in the areas of tornado shelters, controlling building access and crossing the street. The current facilities continue to age and some face considerable maintenance issues going forward. A project that doesn’t consolidate services in one facility won’t address this consensus; therefore, Concept 6 is the best solution to pursue, but passage will be difficult.”

A review of the meeting said the biggest resistance to the idea was the cost.

“People don’t want to increase their taxes when the school currently has adequate facilities that have served the district for a long time,” Spencer said.

With a February deadline to get on an April ballot, the board will likely take over the final stages of planning for the bond, thus completing the action of the focus committee.

“The focus committee may not be called upon to meet again due to time restraints,” said Spencer. “A committee of some sort that will promote the final proposal (will be) essential to the passage of any bond election.

Spencer encouraged anyone interested in helping promote and pass the anticipated bond issue to contact him at the district office at (785) 828-4413 or spencerb@usd421.org.

The Osage County Herald-Chronicle

The official newspaper of Osage County; the cities of Burlingame, Carbondale, Lyndon, Melvern, Olivet, Osage City, Overbrook, Quenemo and Scranton; Burlingame USD 454, Lyndon USD 421, Marais des Cygnes Valley USD 456, Osage City USD 420 and Santa Fe Trail USD 434.

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