PITTSBURG — Roughly 100 people funneled through the Pittsburg Community Middle School on Wednesday night during a Q&A tour.
The tour comes just a couple days before registered voters within the Pittsburg school district will be mailed a ballot for a $67.6 million bond.
"Tonight, it was to get people in the building to answer questions," said Superintendent of Schools Destry Brown, adding, "the ballots are going out Friday, and we want people to have a chance to see what is going on."
Tours went from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Community members walked through the school, stopping at several locations for an extended period where various people involved with the bond would answer questions.
Faculty filled one room to answer questions, board members another, then a room with committee members who helped select each project and finally a room with the architects.
Janice Allison, who spoke against the price of the bond and the ballot language being misleading from the intent to "tear down" the middle school facade at a school board meeting in December, asked architect Kevin Greischar why sketches of the construction have not yet been made available.
"The time to do the schematic design on this type of project is probably at least three months, and at the end of that process you would have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars," Greischar said in a later interview. "There is not many school districts, and we have worked with many districts, that invest that money up front."
There was also questions about what the new facade of the middle school might look like.
"Whatever we replace the front of the building with needs to have that same kind of character," said Greischar, adding it needs to have some "wow" to it.
Most community members during the first tour were astonished by the stagnant, green groundwater which leaked into the pool in the 1920 section. They seemed just as surprised to see the outdated locker room where rival football teams for the high school, who play at the middle school football field, get ready.
"This is where we put Blue Valley," said Assistant Principal Chris King.
The tour ends where it started, back in the cafeteria where Crawford County Clerk Don Pyle was on hand to help people register to vote or help people find out if they were already registered.
"We got some additional people to register with us today," Pyle said, adding there are about 11,700 registered voters within the district.
Ballots will be mailed out on Jan. 8, the postmarked envelope and ballot must be received by the county clerk no later than noon on Jan. 28.
Pyle said Thursday at 4:30 p.m. is the deadline to register to vote for this bond election. For more information, call the county clerk's office at 620-724-6115.
Also in the cafeteria was Greg Vahrenberg, managing director at Piper Jaffray, to answer questions about dollars and cents.
Vahrenberg said the district's current bond debt has a principle of $16.5 million.
If the district’s current bond debt is combined with the $67.6 million, the mill increase strictly for bonds would increase 12.32 mills for a 25 year term. This breaks down to $11.81 a month for a home valued at $100,000. One mill is one dollar per $1,000 of assessed value.
Superintendent Brown said the middle school was chosen for this particular tour because it has been the most problematic. Particularly, tearing down the historical front.
Mike Darlington, a former student at the school who be voting "yes," said he does have sentimental ties to the building, but said it does not outweigh what is right.
"If they can't save the front," he said, "Its been great."
Work will include construction at each school in the district. All of the recommendations were made by a committee of community members whom the district believes represent the community.
At the high school, recommendations are for a 860-seat performing arts center, kitchen and cafeteria, a pathway connecting two of the buildings, and front offices at the entryway to eliminate the “wind tunnel.” Renovations recommended are to upgrade four science rooms and add four more, and reconfiguring a section of the northwest corner to be a 21st century learning environment.
The recommendations at the high school would make the current front offices a student services area, and repurpose the old kitchen to a culinary arts area. The new performing arts center would also serve as a storm shelter, and would be in addition to the current auditorium. All the projects are estimated to cost $29.5 million.
The recommendations at the middle school would rebuild everything but the 2004 addition. The additions would include a new gym, cafeteria, auditorium, band and chorus, classrooms, multi-purpose storm shelter, locker rooms, additional entryway and administrator offices.
Renovations would also be made to a section between the new construction and the 2004 addition.
The middle school recommendations would bring fifth graders from elementary schools around the district — eliminating overcrowding at the elementary schools. The new section would house fifth and sixth graders while the 2004 section would be for seventh and eighth graders. There would also be some shared rooms. The total project is estimated at $25.4 million.
All of the elementary schools would get new storm shelter that would meet FEMA's requirements for wind. Westside, estimated at $3.1 million, would also get a kitchen renovation and expansion for the cafeteria. Lakeside, estimated at $3.6 million, will would a connector from the gym to storm shelter, relocate the cafeteria and expand the kitchen.
Projects at George Nettels, estimated at $3.2 million, would have the cafeteria expanded and kitchen renovated. And Meadowlark, estimated at $2.8 million, would have some space repurposed.
— Michael Stavola is a staff writer at The Morning Sun. He can be emailed at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @MichaelStavola1.