Amy Cunningham
[email protected]
Spring Hill School District patrons along with school and local officials were invited to share their opinions regarding the future of USD 230 at the third of three scheduled meetings sponsored by the board of education since the beginning of the school year.
The meeting was primarily driven by members of the DLR Group, an architecture, engineering, planning and interiors firm with offices in Overland Park.  USD 230 contracts with DLR to consult on long range plans for the district.  The company has handled planning and construction for Spring Hill schools in the past.
According to Andy Anderson of the DLR Group, meeting attendees have been charged with answering several questions: How would you prefer to address future enrollment growth; How would you prefer to address deferred maintenance and technology needs; How would you prefer to pay for District needs?
Drawing on information gathered from community members at the two previous planning sessions, the DLR Group presented possible solutions to the questions posed.
The first calls for an addition to Prairie Creek Elementary School that could increase capacity from 264 students to 528 at a cost of $5.25 million.  At a cost of $21 million a new elementary school to hold an additional 528 students could be constructed in the district.  Spring Hill Elementary School would be converted from a K through 2nd grade school to K through 5th, leaving capacity at 528.  Spring Hill Intermediate School would be converted from 3rd grade through 5th grade classrooms to house only 6th graders.  Spring Hill Middle School would lose its 6th graders and consist of only 7th and 8th graders. Conversions on the three schools would happen at no cost.
Solution one would come with a price tag of more than $26 million.  Using projected enrollment numbers provided by RSP& Associates, the plan could handle student capacity in Pre-K through 5th grade to 2016; 6th through 8th to 2020; and high school classes through 2019.
The second solution includes plans to covert the elementary, intermediate and middle schools. In addition, it proposes the construction of two new elementary schools each with a capacity of 528 students. Costs to patrons would be $42 million. The plan could handle student capacity through 2018 in Pre-K through 5th grade; beyond 2020 in 6th to 8th; and through 2019 in grades 9 through 12.
Solution three calls for an addition to Prairie Creek Elementary School, increasing capacity to 528 students.  It also plans for construction of a new middle school to house 264 students at a cost of $19.85 million and a new elementary school with a capacity of 264 students at a cost of $15.15 million.
This would carry the district though projected enrollment from pre k – 5 through 2017, from 6 – 8 past 2020 and from 9 – 12 through 2019.  Total price associated with solution three is $40.25 million.
Additionally the district has some deferred maintenance issues with several buildings currently in use that must be addressed at a cost of $3.9 million; these include roof and HVAC repairs, building interior upgrades as well as parking lot maintenance.
The district is also asking for $3.75 million for grounds upkeep and technology needs.
Meeting attendees were then instructed to break into groups and discuss the options presented.
“How would you prefer to address future enrollment growth?  Would you like to conduct additions at existing schools or build new?  Or would you like to cram more students into classrooms,” Anderson asked.
Indicating that time was a concern in planning for the not- so-distant future, Anderson said that building out entirely new schools, including acquiring the land, design and construction as well as finishing with equipment and technology would take at least two-and-a half years.
“…If you have slightly higher enrollment growth you’re gong to exceed capacity in 2011 – 12.  Based on your preferred classroom size if you have normal anticipated growth (in the elementary schools), you’ll exceed capacity in 2012 – 2013 and at the middle school in 2013 – 2014.  At the high school you’ll probably not see any pressure for 10 years or more.”
Greg Vahrenberg of Piper Jaffray, financial consultant for USD 230, said that the district is in a favorable position to consider a new bond issue without increasing the mill levy.  He offered two solutions, including USD 230 issuing $46 million in general obligation bonds to be repaid over 20 years or issuing $64 million in general obligation bonds to be paid over 25 years, both without raising the mill levy.  He also said that the district could potentially issue a larger amount without increasing the mill levy by extending the repayment period.  In Kansas, school districts can issue bonds for up to a 32-year-repayment period.
Patrons are invited to meet again at 7 p.m. on Oct. 11, 2010 at Hilltop Elementary.