Amy Cunningham
District patrons came to a consensus at a long range planning meeting Monday evening that will, they hope, carry USD 230 more than a decade into the future. The meeting, one of four facilitated this school year by the DLR Group, used recommendations from last week’s planning session to combine elements from two of the three options presented committee members.
Members included taxpayers, district employees and community leaders.
The first option, now with a price tag of $34 million, up from the proposed plan’s anticipated cost of $24 million, doubles the capacity of Prairie Creek Elementary School, calls for the construction of a third elementary school, adds fifth graders to Spring Hill Elementary’s make-up, converts Spring Hill Intermediate School to a sixth-grade only school and converts the middle school to a junior high with only seventh and eighth graders.  It includes technology upgrades and addresses  issues like roofing upgrades, ground upkeep, HVAC repairs and building interior and parking maintenance upgrades that have been deferred for the over the last several years.
Planners cut Option 2  altogether and presented a modified version of Option 3 with a new cost of $48 million — up nearly $10 million from last week’s proposal.  Option 3 includes 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 and a new elementary school with a capacity of 264 students.  In addition to the original Option 3 plan, technology needs, building upgrades and deferred maintenance are now factored in.   Previously the plan was expected to run taxpayers $40.25 million, but with the addition of those deferred needs Option 3 is expected to cost $48 million.
Based on feedback the DLR Group received at last week’s planning session, meeting facilitators then presented the group with an additional, not previously seen scenario, Option 4 – the do nothing plan.
“It’s only fair to have all options to consider,” said Andy Anderson of the DLR Group.
John Fuller, also of the DLR Group, said the mill levy was expected to remain flat.  He believed, from comments received at previous sessions, some people wished to pay off debt earlier before passing a new bond issue.
“You could pay off the debt four years earlier,” he said.  “Instead of 2024 you could pay off debt in 2020.  You would still be paying the same amount.”
After each option was presented, only tax-paying citizens were asked cast votes, assigning each plan grade from A to F, via remote voting tools which then quickly tallied their responses.  After all options were presented patrons cast one final vote, overwhelmingly selecting Option 1 to present to the school board as the community’s recommendation for the future of the district, and a recommendation for future bond issues.
Jason Winbolt, patron and parent of a Spring Hill second grader, will take the group’s recommendation to the district at a school board meeting Oct. 12.  He said he believes the community will be willing to support a bond issue if it means providing for the future of the district.
“I don’t anticipate much resistance (in the community),” Winbolt said.  “There’s a big influx of parents my age, moving to Spring Hill, bringing their families down here and they want to see our district continue to get better and grow.  I do see some resistance from people who don’t have students in the district, but, for the most part, they’ll see the benefits and good things it brings.”
The meeting, was one of four facilitated this school year by DLR Group to gain community input on future plans for the district.  USD 230 contracts with DLR to consult on long range plans for the district.  The company is an architecture, engineering, planning and interiors firm with offices in Overland Park. In the past the company has handled planning and construction for Spring Hill schools.