How is Facility Maintenance, improvements, and Future Planning approached at Thayer Central?
Over the past decade, your school board and administration have worked together to design several facilities improvements not only for possible future expansion and building connectivity, but also updates and remodeling of existing structures.
From working through updates and remodeling projects and associated timelines, to meetings with design teams to try and plan future facilities ideas and create a timetable to hopefully accomplish these visions and goals. Several gatherings of many different individuals from throughout our school district have participated in one or more of these sessions in the past as we strived to get community input each step of the way.
One key plan was the strategic implementation of a multi-year project of existing classroom remodeling consisting of: new LED lighting, paint, carpet, cabinetry, etc. Each summer, with the help of our internal maintenance staff and crew, this was accomplished; a few rooms each year. Not only was this valuable as this helped to spread our costs over this past decade, but we also were able to help save the district additional increased labor costs completing these projects with our talented maintenance team.
Why does the Board feel now is the right time to consider this project?
This project is the culmination of a process the district has been engaged in for several years. There is a list of significant needs that has been identified and reviewed by the board and patrons over this period of time. The special building fund is currently at $3.3 Million. The board does not believe it is a wise use of taxpayer dollars to allow this money to sit idle any longer. Rather, it should be deployed to benefit our students, staff, and community. The Board feels the combination of the Special Building Fund and the proceeds from a successful Special Election will provide the district the resources to address all identified needs, at the same time, and in the most efficient manner. The current financial environment is also beneficial because of low interest rates. The board has been provided an estimate of 1.5% interest on a 15-year bond which is historically low and allows the district to pay for these improvements over time.
The project has drawn strong interest from 7 highly capable "Design-Build" firms which should provide excellent competition for the job. This allows the board to choose the design providing the most value to the district. Timing of construction is also important to the board. If the bond is successful on March 9th, this allows time to select the construction firm, begin construction this spring, and conclude summer of 2022. This timeline provides a minimum amount of impact on students, staff, and the public. The time to invest in our kids, to improve safety and security, to expand educational programming, and invest in the future of our district and communities is what we consider on March 9th.
Why is the Board calling for a Special Election related to Facility Improvements?
The board recognized early on that a project of this scope will require construction activities while school is in session. With that in mind our facilities team worked to create a plan that would minimize the project's impact on our students and staff, while allowing sufficient time for the construction team to deliver a quality product. Through collaboration with industry experts a workable timeline was created. After a thorough review the timeline was adjusted to conform to the exact needs of the district while meeting all necessary statutory requirements. Once completed it was apparent that successful execution of that timeline would require a Special Election. After careful consideration the Board of Education decided to move forward, engaging the public with an opportunity to voice their opinion through an official vote.
How will this Project Potentially Enhance our District?
The proposed project has enhancements in it that will benefit students, staff and patrons of the district. As a board, we are always looking for ways to ensure our students get the best possible education, we also have to look at the day to day operations of the school as well. This plan addresses many priorities which have been brought to our attention over the last decade.
Safety being priority number one. This plan eliminates the need for students of all ages to travel between the three different buildings currently being used. It also will give us enough area to get our students in a storm shelter that is reinforced to withstand the possibility of a tornado and allows for additional parking so we do not have patrons parking on the streets when events that draw a large crowd are held at the school.
This plan also addresses the need for additional educational space for Special Education, Career Pathways and FFA. It will give the students and staff the space needed to have an effective learning environment. Performing arts, band and vocal will also have an area that will allow them to educate while at the same time not being disruptive to other class sessions within the building.
History of the Planning Process and Financial Considerations
The Thayer Central Board of Education is excited for the patrons of Thayer Central to vote on the proposed additions and renovations to our facilities. The bond election is set to vote on addressing multiple needs that the Board feels our students, communities and patrons can greatly benefit from.
This bond issue encompasses the top areas of needs that have been brought to our attention as the result of many years of listening to the public, students & staff. The proposed project would tie each of these areas together with the main focus being on Security, Safety and Special Education. The School Board has also tried to weigh the project cost, the amount of savings the District has and the timing as it relates to interest rates for borrowing.
Higher Security could be gained by connecting the Elementary to the High School, moving the Band room out of the North Shop, and limiting the amount of entrances for students and visitors. New, modern Disaster Shelters could be added so that everyone of our High School and Junior High School students could be in the safest space possible in the worst case scenario. This space can also be purposed for locker rooms. The District’s Parking situation would be improved to provide a safer area for young students to be dropped off and our older driving students to have their own area to enter and exit. This would also give our school more on-site parking for all activities throughout the year.
A positive bond outcome would also allow our District to give our SPED students & staff much needed space and regain a classroom that is intended for our K-6 classes. Additional Educational opportunities for our students would be modern FFA/Ag & Industrial Arts classrooms with a shared lab. This would let us expand our Career Pathways curriculum so we could offer students more opportunities for hands-on learning and possible Two Year college degree programs. These classrooms and a Visual Arts area could now be under the same roof as all of our other programs.
Being fiscally responsible is a focus of the School Board, to that end a plan to repurpose parts of our existing facilities helps achieve this. In this project there are targeted areas of renovation of existing spaces including the use of the 1953 gym as a Vocal Music & Instrumental Music classroom while still being flexible with the space to accommodate our Performing Arts such as the Play and Concerts throughout the school year.
Another area the Board feels should be addressed in this project is a new gymnasium. Since bringing our PreK-2nd grades to the main campus in 2016, the District has had to make adjustments in the amount of Physical Education that some of our students receive. Between PE, recess, and Junior High practices, we simply do not have enough court space to meet every child's physical activity requirements. Combine this with increased competition for practice times, another gym court would truly benefit in many ways.
The Board of Education understands their role to keep our facilities viable. We also realize that we represent all District patrons and that we need to be fiscally responsible in all of our planning and decisions. As an example, the Board, last fall, reduced the Special Building Fund request by over $900,000. The Board considered this to be the right thing to do related to addressing funds for facilities. The proposed bond would be in the amount to not exceed $5.27 million which would be set up over a 15-year term. Current interest rates place financing in the 1.5% range for the life of this bond schedule.
The Board does feel that taking this to a vote of the public is the appropriate action. The Board has proposed a project that takes care of over a dozen of the District’s top needs. With focus towards a due diligence to get the cost down, and with the current interest rates and the Building Contractors having to compete for our project, we feel that we are in the best position possible regarding the proposal.
Based on current data and planning the Board of Education, at this time, envisions this project to complete the Thayer Central campus for the foreseeable future.
The Thayer Central Board of Education wishes to thank all of our patrons for their attention and focus regarding this important Special Election. Please contact the school and/or the Board with questions and comments. It is our pleasure to engage all interested in gathering as much information as possible in preparing themselves to make an informed decision.
Board Rationale on Facility Planning by,
Rob Marsh Tysen Hissong Nate Casey
Chad Oswald Jeremy Heitmann Chris Hergott