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Building needs could lead to bond issue for USD 428
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SJCF Architect Terry Wiggers shows information during a Community Feedback audience at Park School.

Community Feedback meeting schedule

• Tuesday, Nov. 27 – 6:30 p.m. at the Great Bend Middle School Commons Area, 1919 Harrison St.

Also at the Barton County Young Professionals lunch at noon at Pizza Hut, 4101 10th St.

• Tuesday, Dec. 4 – 5 p.m. at the Great Bend High School Auditorium, 2027 Morton St.

Also at noon at the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce lunch and learn, 1125 Williams St.

Also the Great Bend Senior Center, 2005 Kansas Ave., at 10:30 a.m.

Other dates:

• Dec. 6 and 20, Steering committee reviews Community Feedback data and completes Master Facilities Plan

• Jan. 14, 2019, Master Facilities Plan is presented to the school board

• January/February 2019, Board of Education determines the best course of action and schedule

Implementing options for every building on a list of potential improvements to Great Bend USD 428 facilities would cost between $90 million and $150 million, SJCF architect Terry Wiggers said. Community Feedback meetings are underway to find out more about what people feel are the greatest priorities — and how much they’re willing to spend.

A 20-year master plan could be completed in a single phase, two 10-year phases or three phases, each six to eight years long, Wiggers said. 

The district’s current assessed valuation is $157 million and all outstanding USD 428 bonds were paid in full in September 2018. State aid on any new bonds issued will be 23 percent of the principal and interest.

Community input into a master plan for Great Bend USD 428 began back in February with the creation of a 49-member steering committee and expanded this past week with the first of several Community Feedback meetings.

Wiggers has a 30-minute presentation that describes the latest versions of what the steering committee believes are the district’s greatest needs. There is at least one option for every building in the district, including schools, the District Education Center, the Central Kitchen and the maintenance and transportation facilities. 

“We’re still looking at options,” Wiggers said. “We’ve eliminated the chaff.”

All of the options can be seen online at the district website: Look for the link “USD 428 Comprehensive Facilities Study,” under the photo and above the calendar. Information includes a mill levy comparison for school districts and what a mill levy increase might cost a homeowner or agricultural land owner in property tax increases.

Although the Community Feedback meetings got underway last week, no one from the public showed up for at meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday at Park Elementary School. Superintendent Khris Thexton said the 5 p.m. starting time may have been too early for people and he hoped more people would come to the second round, that same evening at 7 p.m. In addition to school officials and school board members, five or six people attended that meeting.

They used their cell phones to text answers to questions such as “Would you rather add on to and renovate our current buildings or build new facilities to meet the District’s educational needs?” Wiggers said a lot of the goals set by the steering committee have dealt with safety and security. These include the lack of storm shelters at buildings and the need for a safer way for parents to drop off and pick up their children before and after school. Doors to the classes should have intruder locks that can be activated with a panic button, he said. Currently, a teacher has to use a key and step out into the hall to lock a door, he said.

Proposed master plan option also include enhancing early childhood program opportunities and moving sixth graders to the middle school.

Most of the schools in the district were built in the 1950s, Wiggers noted. Portions of the Washington Early Education Center are 99 years old. The maintenance building/bus barn is almost 80 years old and can’t hold all of the buses, which are parked outside. “They find transients sleeping in buses some mornings,” he said.

Shared space can also create problems. The gym/cafeteria at Park School, for example, has tables folded up along wall when it’s being used as a gym, which could be unsafe, he said. Media centers (libraries) are also being used for special education classes, band practice and “all kinds of things,” he said.

Moving sixth graders to GBMS will free up space for preschoolers at the elementary schools but will require an addition to the middle school.

There are still several options for Great Bend High School, including building an entirely new school at a new site. The steering committee would like to see the Panther Athletic Center (PAC) connected to the main school in some fashion, even if it’s just a corridor. One idea that didn’t fly was to rotate the football stadium by 90 degrees. The length of the field is now from north to south and a suggestion that it go from east to west was not popular.

Proposed costs (estimated)

Eisenhower Elementary School - $5,553,020 to $6,770,070

Jefferson Elementary School - $5,198,330

Lincoln Elementary School - $3,570,980

Park Elementary School - $3,966,310 to $6,792,620

Riley Elementary School - $4,328,475 to $5,492,700 

Great Bend Middle School - $19,688,910 to $39,232,500

Great Bend High School - $30,635,979 to $31,935,979

New Great Bend School on a new site - $82,214,656

Washington Early Childhood Education Center - $5,766,137

Support Services - Renovate District Education Center and add on Transportation/Maintenance & Grounds - $2,052,980 to $4,690,627