A Great Bend USD 428 steering committee comprised of nearly 50 community members has analyzed district school facilities and demographic data with the guidance of architects from the firm SJCF. Based on months of research, a facilities master plan that addresses safety, technology, changing demographics and trends, as well as aging facilities and infrastructure, will be presented to the board of education when it meets at 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14, at the District Education Center, 201 South Patton Road.
Committee members and SJCF architects are scheduled to make the presentation. Under the timeline reported earlier, the school board plans to use this information and determine the best course of action, perhaps at the February meeting.
The process got underway last February when nearly three dozen invited guests met at Great Bend High School to form a community engagement committee to examine the needs of USD 428 schools. Superintendent Khris Thexton and Terry Wiggers of SJCF Architecture addressed the steering committee and tasked them with identifying problems, establishing goals, gathering community input, educating the community, finding solutions and making recommendations to the school board.
“This is the first step in figuring out what the community sees as our strengths and weaknesses,” Thexton said at the Feb. 22, 2018, meeting. “Throughout this process, we will learn what our needs for the future are and how to meet those needs.”
“This process is about listening,” Wiggers said, noting the committee would meet 10 to 12 times during 2018 before coming to any consensus or conclusion. “We don’t want to rush the process. If we need more time, we’ll take more time. This is your project; we are just here to facilitate the community engagement and discussion.”
Since then, committee members have come up with two or more options for additions and/or remodeling at all USD 428 facilities, including the transportation and maintenance buildings, district office and central kitchen. Implementing all of the options for every building could cost between $90 million and $150 million, according to information Wiggers presented at community feedback meetings in November and December. The final plan could be done in phases over 20 years, but would likely require a bond issue — something the steering committee has also researched. The district has no bonded indebtedness at present, having paid off its last bond issue in September.
When the school board approves a final version of the master plan, it will also have to decide whether sixth graders should continue to attend one of the district’s five elementary schools or should move to a central location, most likely at the Great Bend Middle School. If they do move to the GBMS building, a new wing may be needed for sixth graders. The space created at the elementary schools could be used for preschool classes.