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School board receives facilities recommendations
Steering committee recommends additions, renovation, throughout USD 428
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Assistant Superintendent John Popp leafs through a copy of the 320-page Master Plan Report & Recommendations for Great Bend USD 428 facilities, Monday at the school board meeting. Board members each received a copy of the report to study before making their own decision on a master plan for the next 15-20 years. - photo by Susan Thacker

The Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education on Monday received copies of a 320-page book outlining recommendations for a facilities master plan for the next 15-20 years. Terry Wiggers from SJCF Architects made a presentation as several members from the community steering committee watched in the audience.

It will be up to the board of education to adopt a final master plan, but Wiggers noted the recommendation from the steering committee is the result of about 11 months of work and some 50 meetings, many of which included the 50-member community group. The steering committee represented “a good cross section of the community,” Wiggers said.

The total cost for everything being recommended is $88.7 million but research showed voters are most likely to approve something closer to $50 million. One option would be to adopt a two-phase plan. Phase 1 would cost about $52,126,934 and Phase 2 would cost $36,666,716, before inflation, in a future bond issue in 10-15 years.

Superintendent Khris Thexton said the board will have some time to study the suggestions because a bond issue proposal for facilities can’t be sent to the Kansas State Board of Education before July 1, due to a cap on such projects, enacted by the Legislature in 2016.

Highlights of the report include:


A 20-year bond issue for $52.13 million would result in an estimated mill levy increase of 16.25 mills. That would cost the owner of a $50,000 home an additional $93.44 a year and the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $186.87 a year.

The projected property tax increase for a $100,000 commercial property would be $406.25. Estimates are also available for agricultural land.

A mill levy comparison of districts in the Western Athletic Conference league shows Great Bend’s mill levy is now 41.226, and one mill generates $163,203. The mill levy for Hays is 42.799; Garden City, 48.848; Liberal, 50.0; and Dodge City, 57.176.

Phase 1

In Phase 1 as recommended, every school would see additions and renovation, with the largest amount — $13.4 million — spent at Great Bend Middle School. The additions would allow all schools to have controlled entries near the office, and storm shelters. GBMS would also get a new wing for sixth graders and a new band, choir and orchestra addition. Infrastructure improvements at the buildings are also included.

The steering committee also recommends a new transportation, maintenance and grounds building with storm shelter on the site of the District Education Center at 201 South Patton Road. Eliminating the transportation building from Phase 1 would reduce the cost by almost $4.5 million, bringing it to $47,646,957.

Community feedback

At 17 community feedback meetings with approximately 300 participants, the top facility goals identified for USD 428 were staff safety/security (34 percent); adequate facilities/future growth (28 percent); and building/technology infrastructure (20 percent). Sixty percent said the greatest need in the district was to upgrade infrastructure and aging facilities, and 75 percent would prefer to add on and renovate current buildings vs. building new facilities.

The master plan options being considered include moving sixth grade to a new separate wing at the middle school to allow early childhood education to be located at elementary schools. Fifty-six percent “strongly agreed” and 28 percent “somewhat agreed” with that option.

Asked if there were any recommendations in the proposed plans that they felt should not be included in the long-range master plan, 61 percent said no and 16 percent said yes, remove a new high school auditorium (in Phase 2).

Forty percent said they would be “likely” to vote for a bond issue for Phase 1 and 47 percent said they would be “extremely likely” to vote for it. But when asked “what amount would you support if there were a master plan bond issue?” 36 said $50 million; 29 percent said $75 million and 22 percent said $100 million.

Community feedback priorities

1 Student and staff safety and security (access and shelters)

2 Address capacity at early childhood and elementary schools

3 Address orchestra and art spaces at elementary schools

4 Address aging Washington facility (part of it was built in 1919)

5 Improve transportation/maintenance/grounds facility needs

6 Improve outdoor elementary playgrounds

7 Plan for future educational needs

8 Address aging facilities and infrastructure

Meeting at a glance

Here’s a quick look at what the Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education did Monday, Jan. 14

• Recognized the seventh-grade Western Athletic Conference Champions. The board was also recognized by the administration for the role these elected officials play in the community and schools.

• Approved the GBHS Program of Studies Book.

• Heard a presentation on recommendations for a facilities master plan.

• Approved the purchase of two Coachliner-style activity buses.

• Approved the appointment of Katie Zimmerman to fill a vacancy on the USD 428 Education Foundation Board of Trustees.

• Approved fundraising requests for the 2019-2020 school year.

• Reviewed the first draft of school calendars for the 2020-2021 school year.

• Had the first reading of policy revisions.

• Approved a resolution authorizing a new Visa card account with Bank of the West for district travel.

• Heard Assistant Superintendent John Popp’s report on curriculum updates and efforts to hire future teachers.

• Heart Superintendent Khris Thexton’s report on a seminar in Topeka, plans for a Jan. 30 board retreat at Fort Hays State University and interest-based bargaining.

• Approved two donations and one new teacher appointment.