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Architects vie for USD 428
Three firms make presentations

Representatives from three architectural firms met with the Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education on Monday as the board prepares to develop a master plan for capital outlay projects.
Choosing an architect is the next step, which comes even before making a list of projects, Superintendent Khris Thexton said. Earlier this year, a selection committee made up of administrators and board members narrowed the field to three firms: DLR Group; HTK Architects and SJCF Architecture.
On Monday, representatives from the three finalists made presentations that lasted about 25 minutes each, with another 10 minutes allotted for questions from the board.
Each presentation included some discussion about bond issues and the firms’ services in helping pass a bond election if needed. Two presenters specifically mentioned they would have “skin in the game” by deferring up-front costs until the successful passage of a bond issue.
To clarify, Assistant Superintendent John Popp told the reporters who attended the meeting that the board has not committed to any project that will require a bond election. “We are not necessarily focused on bonds,” Popp said.

DLR Group
Troy Wade made the DLR presentation, but mentioned three other members from the team, including Amber Beverlin, originally from Otis. DLR has its own engineering firm.
“It’s important to have the right partners in this process,” Wade said, describing the services provided and steps taken from research to planning to a bond proposal. “No one has passed a bond for more than $30 million successfully west of Hutch, other than us,” he said.
“I went to all of your buildings but two last week,” Wade said. “I will tell you your buildings look like they’re in good shape; I will tell you they look like they’re well maintained and taken care of, but I’ll also tell you you’ve got seven buildings that will all be 80 years old at the same time.”
DLR research will help the board make data-driven decisions about accessibility, HVAC needs, barriers, safety and what kinds of spaces are needed for learning. Public committees will learn about the needs and costs, so they can make a recommendation to the board and help educate the public.
“There’s transparency throughout the process, so it’s not a surprise,” he said.

HTK Architects
HTK’s team of Don Pruitt, Maria Kutina and Elizabeth Johnson talked about their years of experience with the school district. They came on board in 1993 and were the architects behind the $21.8 million bond referendum in 1997. In 2002 they did the district-wide roof maintenance master plan, in 2004 the Panther Activity Center, in 2011 the district-wide flooring replacement master plan and in 2013 the 17,000-square-foot addition to Great Bend Middle School.
“We know your buildings inside and out,” Pruitt said, adding the firm has extensive experience with K-12 structures and networks with educators to stay abreast of trends.
“We do not just design the project and walk away,” Pruitt said. “One of our main marketing points are the repeat customers.”
Kutina talked about possible security projects, from entrances to safe rooms. “Storm shelters can be multipurpose,” she noted. The space required for storm safety is often comparable to the space needed for a band room. Another safety issue is the drop-off and pick-up site for students before and after school.
The architects also recommended that the board and administration engage the community in the planning process. “I think it’s a good idea to get their input,” Pruitt said.

SJCF Architecture
SJCF representatives Terry Wiggers, Shannon Bohm and Matt Hamm said they would like their firm to become a long-term partner with the school district. The architects recommended that the district create a steering committee of 30-40 people that reflect the community as the process moves forward. They will also want to talk to teachers and staff.
“What we really do is explore all the different options,” Wiggers said.
The steering committee will make recommendations to the school board, which can develop a master plan.
Bohm noted that most districts find they need bond issues after they decide what projects are a priority. “We provide a study and community engagement,” she said.
“You probably have your curriculum aligned,” she noted. Buildings should also be “aligned,” with similar uses of space at each learning center, she suggested. “We really want to get a good understanding of how you teach and how you utilize your buildings.”
Hamm showed a list of priorities that a district might set. Suggestions included storm shelters, safety and deferred maintenance. He noted that storm shelters can be multipurpose rooms that are used for education.

This article was updated on Oct. 25, 2017, to correct the name of DLR architect Troy Wade.