By JIM MISUNAS
LARNED — Fort Larned USD 495 will stage its initial groundbreaking ceremony to kick off a $22.2 million building project at 10 a.m. Saturday.
“We will meet at the sight of the new elementary school — North Broadway, just north of the old Erway Lumber — to ‘turn some dirt,’ “ said Jon Flint, Fort Larned superintendent.
The work is supervised by Wichita’s Simpson Construction, which serves as the construction management at-risk firm. Wichita’s Howard and Helmer is the architectural firm and PiperJaffray is the financial advisor.
Fort Larned USD 495 voters passed a $22.2 million bond issue by a 2-to-1 margin in April, 2015 that will construct a new elementary school. The new elementary school will be constructed off East 21st between Toles and Broadway.
Flint said construction on the new elementary school is on target to take full advantage of good weather. The projected completion date is June 2017.
“What I’ve enjoyed is how well everyone has worked together,” Flint said. “Our teachers have provided guidance for what they require in a new building and the architects have delivered a plan that will incorporate the feel of local history and the Santa Fe Trail. It will be a building that everyone will be proud of.”
The bond increases property taxes $93 annually for a $75,000 house; $204 annually for a $75,000 business and $72 for 160 acres of dryland crop land.
The centerpiece is a new prekindergarten-through-grade 5 school building, The construction allows USD 495 to sell or demolish three existing buildings. State aid for the construction project is 36 percent.
USD 495 uses five buildings for elementary education.
Current structures to be replaced include — Pre-K (3-4 year olds), Hillside and Sacred Heart; kindergarten, Hillside Elementary (1955); first, second grades, Phinney Elementary (1952); and third, fourth grades, Northside Elementary (1965).
The elementary school site was donated. A $250,000 donation cut the cost for the wellness center, which will be shared with the community.
Other USD 495 buildings utilized are Tri-County Special Education Coop (1962); Larned Middle School (1996); and Larned High School (1952), annex (1975) and south wing (1986).
At the high school, $5.1 million of improvements and additions are planned. A multi-purpose storm shelter and weight room/community fitness center will be built.
The middle school is the district’s newest building, but it would also benefit from the bond issue. The plan will remove grade five from the middle school and return those students to an elementary school setting. More space will be available at the middle school, while fifth-graders will move to a more appropriate setting.