On April 2, residents of the Goessel school district will have the opportunity to vote on a $3.3 million bond project to renovate and update public schools.
The bulk of the project would be building new vocational and agricultural, science, and family and consumer science classrooms and labs at the junior/senior high school, replacing and fixing windows and brickwork on the historic 1930s portion of the school, and construction of a proper tornado shelter at the grade school.
Those were the areas identified, both by staff members and researchers from Kansas State University who visited the school, as needing the most work.
The project would include an addition extending from the gymnasium at the junior/senior high school for the vo-ag, science, and FACS classrooms, labs, and shop, and the current vo-ag section would be demolished.
The new vo-ag shop would be much more open than the current one, which is so sectioned off it is difficult to keep an eye on all students at once.
“It’s definitely a challenge to supervise students in some classes,” teacher Zana Manche said. “You’re going to have a safety concern anytime you give a kid a power tool.”
FACS teacher Gina Bergin said her classroom now has issues with ventilation, hot water, and space for kitchen and sewing stations. Whenever students burn something (and as beginner cooks, burned meals do happen) the classroom and neighboring hallways fill with smoke.
Bergin also said it takes 10 to 15 minutes for each sink to get hot water.
“I don’t want to guess how much is wasted to get water hot enough to wash dishes,” she said.
The science lab has had three leaks big enough to require a plumber’s attention this year, and the gas taps for lab work have been turned off for at least six years, science teacher Donna O’Neill said. Instead of using Bunsen burners, the students have to use butane torches to heat experiments.
The current science lab doesn’t have a separate storage room for chemical storage either, which the bond project would change.
With the FACS and science rooms being vacated if the bond project is approved, other areas would be able to improve their facilities. The plan is for art to move into the science room, weightlifting to move into the art room, and the custodial office to move into the weightlifting room. The FACS room would be used to expand special education and introduce an alumni office.
Schools can’t make big improvements to facilities for free. The proposed project would cost approximately $3.3 million over 18 years. With the district’s property valuation, that would result in an annual property tax increase of $16.82 on a $75,000 home.
The district hasn’t yet paid off its previous bond project, which will be paid off in 2015. But the school board wanted to pursue the project now because there has been discussion in state government of eliminating state aid for bond projects.
Because of the district’s low assessed value, the state contributes 40 percent of any bond project for USD 411, Superintendent John Fast said. The board chose to accelerate its plans because it doesn’t want to lose that funding, which would be $1.32 million of the project.
Local and school district elections will be April 2.