Replacing Garfield Elementary School, upgrading security and safety, climate control, addiing classroom space and a building a new AHS gym and auditorium were recommendations to the Abilene USD 435 Board of Education by local citizens.
Those were part of a Citizens Advisory Committee on facilities needs list presented to the Board of Education at its regular meeting Monday night.
“It is the opinion of the committee that it (Garfield) has reached its functional endpoint as a grade school facility,” said Dr. Mike Whitehair, who was the committee’s spokesman.
The committee of citizens who, according to Whitehair, “have a strong interest in meeting the present and future educational need of our community with a focus on the physical facilities” presented the board their recommendations.
“They want what’s best for the community,” Whitehair added.
The facilities issue is now in the hands of the Board of Education, which will need to make a decision on proceeding. The recommendations, which all total could reach $27 million will require a bond issue to be voted on by registered voters in the school district.
The board set 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16 as a special meeting to further discuss facilities.
The USD 435 facilities project dates back more than a year ago. The school board starting looking at facility repairs and a potential bond issue because the state will still fund 39 percent of a project. Board members have indicated they are not sure how long those funds will continue to be in place.
The facilities study officially kicked off in June of 2012 when G. Kent Stewart, a Manhattan consultant, presented his “A Look Toward 2020” study.
In the study, Stewart wrote “While Garfield school is a fine example of a WPA school and enjoys recognition on the National Register of Historic Building, it does have some major capital improvement needs.”
Stewart recommended to the board to form a citizens advisory committee to study Garfield. The Citizen Advisory Committee also studied all of the district’s facility needs.
“Taxes are never popular without a defined purpose that creates long term value,” Whitehair said. “This proposal would likely be the largest, most expensive project in USD 435 history. Consideration should be given for creative financing involving partnerships with other entities along with state aid programs. It would require in the range of $23-27 million to fund the entire priority list.
“It provides another reason for why we have a great community, because we have made the education of our students in a safe, functional setting a high priority,” Whitehair added.
A proposed new 4-5 grade elementary school would be located at the corner of N. Vine and N. 11th Street. The 59,870-square-foot building is two stories, 37,041 square feet on the main floor and 22,829 square feet on the second floor.
Cost of the new facility is estimated at $6,574,315 by HTK Architects.
A big question was what to do with the current Garfield building.
Whitehair said the committee questioned usingthe facility to house all the fragmented programs scattered throughout the district or alternative uses such as apartments or a museum. He said the district should avoid overhead incurred by district ownership.
Garfield was opened in 1942. The building expanded in 1956. Further major repairs were made in 1990, 2005 and again in 2010.
“It is a historic building and it should not be just disregarded,” Whitehair said.
The security measures are estimated to cost just under $2 million.
Cost of the practice gym was estimated at $4,504,300. Cost of the auditorium was estimated at $4,569,580.
Whitehair said the list was not a “priority list” but rather a needs list.
In other action the board approved Mike Jantz and the AHS head boys’ tennis coach and Chris Parton as the director of transportation.
More information for the board meeting will be published Wednesday.