School board mulls moves

Officials work to document the planning process since 1993.

The school board has insisted all along it has enough documentation to proceed with a $40 million bond to renovate the high school.

At an impromptu meeting Thursday evening, surrounded by glossy architectural drawings of what the high school might look like in the future, the board reviewed the evidence, gleaned from fat notebooks filled with reports from architects, engineers, consultants and staff.

And they talked at length about how to meet the concerns of the citizens who could thwart the bond’s success.

Board member Cheryl Dale proposed an immediate meeting with members of the Bainbridge Resource Group, a taxpayer watchdog organization, inviting several of their members to take part in the bond planning process.

“They want numbers and they want us to justify them,” Dale said, referring to the group’s criticism of the board for failing to prepare a “master plan” of current and future school district needs, with price tags attached.

No BRG members were present at Thursday’s meeting, but member Bob Fortner, contacted Friday, said he welcomed the invitation.

“We are willing to help any way we can,” he said.

Once that group gets a look at planning documents that have guided the board so far – which were synthesized into an executive summary – the board expressed confidence that they could turn their adversaries into allies.

“My hope is that they are going to look at the pieces, and see it’s all here,” Dale said.

The board has insisted for months that it has enough information to proceed with plans to remodel or replace some of the high school’s aging and overcrowded core facilities.

Those buildings include the classrooms in the 100 Building; the library, commons, cafeteria and offices in the 200 Building; and replacement of the LGI auditorium.

The board also wants to replace an aging maintenance facility and tear down the oldest section of the Commodore building, which houses Eagle Harbor High School and other alternative programs.

A summary of the planning documents compiled by Tamela VanWinkle, the district’s facilities project manager, showed that the high school renovation projects currently under consideration by the board have been on the table since 1993, supported by nine planning, feasibility, engineering and master plan reports.

One report included a a 30-year facilities assessment provided by the consulting group DLR in December 2004, which provides a detailed look at every light switch and boiler in the district, with an estimate of when it should be replaced and how much it would cost to replace it.

“Seeing the consistency from 1993 to today, shows that there is nothing new or radical here,” in terms of improvements the board is seeking for the high school, board president Susan Sivitz said.

Board members agreed that many of the projects on the table today, are projects that have been deferred in the past.

Kimberly Gawlik, who worked on the facilities planning committee for more than a year, said the current bond proposal focuses on the high school because the evidence showed its needs were the most glaring of all those in the district.

A renovation of the elementary schools should come next.

“In some ways, you could look at finishing this work at the high school as ‘Phase II’ of the 1993 bond,” she said. That bond funded the new swimming pool, administration facility and parking on campus.

“There are some people, no matter how much information you give them, who will never support a bond,” schools Supt. Ken Crawford said. “And at a certain point, you need to separate those people out. I think the differences will be apparent soon.”

The board is hopeful that the documents on display Thursday will provide the bones for a master plan that will address the concerns of the Resource Group’s members.

The group contends that upcoming bond requests in coming years from several public agencies could overwhelm taxpayers.

He and a number of citizens turned out at the previous board meeting, questioning the district’s capital planning.

The next bond planning session is 5 p.m. Feb. 10. Included will be discussion of the merits of preparing a master plan, which could delay the bond election until fall. A board meeting will follow.

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