Mark Taylor
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Patrons of the Gardner Edgerton School District may be asked to vote on a $72.790 million bond issue early next year.
Superintendent Bill Gilhaus gave school board members a sneak preview of the bond package, which proposes new schools and various district wide upgrades.
Gilhaus said the work is needed to accommodate a student population that continues to grow by 6 percent per year and is pushing several schools beyond maximum capacity.
“We continue to gain additional students (despite the lagging economy),” Gilhaus told the board.
The proposed Jan. 31 bond issue mail-in ballot includes:
• A new elementary school ($18.348 million) to absorb growth south of Main Street. The district’s seventh elementary school would have a capacity for 500 students in kindergarten through fourth grade. Construction would begin in Spring, 2012, and the school would open in Fall, 2013.
• A new middle school ($30.192 million) to relieve current growth at Wheatridge Middle School and future growth at Pioneer Ridge Middle School.  The district’s third middle school would have a capacity for 800 students in fifth to eighth grade. Construction would begin in Spring, 2012, and the school would open in Fall, 2014.
• Land acquisition ($2.066 million) to accommodate the new elementary and middle schools, and expansion of athletic fields at Gardner Edgerton High School.
The district on July 11 authorized a $1.429 million purchase agreement for 39.22 acres to accommodate the new elementary and middle schools.
The property is located west of Moonlight Elementary on Grand Street between Center Street and Moonlight Road.
The land was purchased with a temporary note in advance of the bond issue.
Gilhaus said if the bond election isn’t successful, the district will have to pay off the note within 42 months using capital outlay funds.
• A new multi-purpose activity center at Gardner Edgerton High School ($7.971 million) to facilitate basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, track, aerobics, dance, and strength training.
Gihaus said additional athletic developmental, gymnasium and locker room space are needed at the high school as a result of increased participation in physical education, athletic and activity programs.
• Various capital improvements ($8.2 million)
District wide: Improvements to roofing, parking lots, furniture, lighting, playground equipment, ceiling replacements, doors, etc.
Gardner Elementary renovation: Paint, carpeting, HVAC repair, casework, furniture, doors, etc.
Sunflower Elementary renovation: Carpet, furniture, ceilings, doors, windows, parking lot replacement, casework, etc.
GEHS District Activity Complex expansion: Additional seating, visitors restrooms, concessions, field upgrade and press box expansion.
Technology upgrades ($6.013 million) in all schools and district management systems.
Gilhaus said timing is critical because it takes 12 to 18 months to build an elementary school and 18 to 24 months to build a middle school.
He said if growth continues to occur at 6 percent, half of the district’s elementary schools will be over capacity by 2013.
Wheatridge is currently over capacity and Pioneer Ridge is expected to be over capacity by 2013.
There is also increasing community demand (parks and recreation, churches, etc.) for facility space.
However, Gilhaus said, state aid for bond and interest projects has increased from 30 percent to 35 percent and a competitive construction market is expected to play into the district’s favor.
Gilhaus said the bond issue would cost the owner of a $150,000 home an estimated $4.27 per month.
“USD 231 is the anchor for our communities,” Gilhaus wrote in a PowerPoint presented to the board. “That’s why in a period of accelerated growth, it’s more important than ever to demonstrate to our children and surrounding communities that we value education, we value our children, and we’re willing to invest in their future.”