Mark Taylor
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The Gardner Edgerton School Board on July 11 authorized a $1 million purchase agreement for 39.22 acres in southern Gardner to accommodate a future elementary and middle school.
The property is located just west of Moonlight Elementary on Grand Street between Center Street and Moonlight Road and is contiguous with 24 acres the school board purchased in April for $429,360.
Both pieces of property were financed with a temporary note in advance of a proposed $72.79 million bond issue that would pay for, among other things, construction of a new elementary and middle school on the properties.
Superintendent Bill Gilhaus said the school board moved foward with the property purchase because of the scarcity of available land suitable for a two-school campus in the district’s fastest growing area.
“We took out a temporary capital outlay note which is basically borrowing money to purchase both properties,” he said, “because we didnt have enough money in our reserves to pay for the property, but the property was priced in a way that it was so affordable.”
The district also purchased 23 acres adjacent to the high school for future soccer, football, softball and baseball fields, also included in the proposed bond issue. The purchase price for that property was $637,000.
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.
Melissa Mundt, assistant city administrator, said she expects residential growth to fill in the vacant areas surrounding the school property if the project comes to fruition.
The new elementary/middle school campus would require an extension of Grand Street between Moonlight Road and Center Street, as well as sewer system upgrades.
School officials earlier this year asked the city to participate in $3.5 million in infrastructure upgrades for the project.
Gilhaus presented a proposed $72.790 bond issue package to the school board on July 11.
The bond issue planning included input and oversight by a committee of community members.
The school board is expected to vote next month on whether to put the bond package on a future ballot.
A mail ballot is tentatively planned for Jan. 31.
Gilhaus said the new schools and district improvements are needed to accommodate a student population that continues to grow by 6 percent per year and is pushing several schools beyond maximum capacity.
The proposed bond issue projects include:
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.
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 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.
He said the bond issue would cost the owner of a $150,000 home an estimated $4.27 per month.