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School building meeting to be held Thursday, April 4 at gym with tours of GHS

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Around 25 voters in the Gettysburg School District attended a meeting at the Senior Center on the evening of March 21 to hear a presentation about the proposed high school building project.
The information was provided to help voters in the school district make an informed decision before a bond issue vote takes place on April 9. The bond is for a maximum amount of $6.9 million. The presentation indicated that, depending on the bids, the maximum amount could exceed the amount actually needed for the project.
Dean Marske of HKG Architects explained the project earlier in the day to a noon crowd of around 75 people, but the evening presentation gave more detail on the history leading up to the bond resolution.
Marske explained that around six years ago he and his structure engineers were asked to tour the existing building to determine if it was structurally sound. He said the school is structurally sound, but there are issues in several areas including the life safety code, code compliance, and technology.
Marske said that life safety codes include things like emergency exits, fire alarms, and fire sprinkler system, while code compliance includes making the school handicapped accessible with the addition of elevators, replacing all the pipes, and upgrades to the electrical and security systems, and things of that nature.
The cost to do the basic upgrades to the existing school building would cost around $4.2 million.
Options were then discussed with adding classrooms, music room, cafeteria, and a competition gym which would allow the existing space to be used as an auxiliary gym. In order to host district or regional sporting events, the court needs a 25 foot clearance height requirement. The current gym is at 18 feet.
Several schools in the region are including the new larger gymnasiums. Gettysburg’s central location makes it ideally suited for the larger tournaments, making the competition gym advantageous to the community for drawing additional income from sporting events.
The proposed high school building, which is designed to be on one level, will feature 13 classrooms, each 900 square feet. There were also upgrades implemented to better serve the FACs (home ec), science lab, and V-tel, which is the distance learning technology. Then it was decided to relocate the kitchen and lunch room, which is now located in the multipurpose room of the elementary. This was designed in a commons area between the schools, so high school students will no longer have to leave the building for meals, which is how they are routed to the lunch room rather than through the hallways of the elementary school, which disrupts the younger students. The commons area will also be the location for the concession stand for events.
Several reasons were given for including the competition gym to the project. One is the increased need for space to accommodate sports. Both boys and girls sports are played during the same season, along with the high number of athletes involved in the activities. Additional lockers will be added where the bleachers are now located on the north wall of the existing gym. No additional locker rooms are being built; instead space in the existing gym is being utilized. Precast walls will be used for the building which are highly energy efficient. Geothermal heating will be put in place, and existing boilers will be used as supplements. He said that geothermal heating pays for itself within seven years.
The wrestling room will be moved to the existing multipurpose room which will increase their space from 24 feet to 38 feet across for mats.
Parking will be on the south and west, as it is now along the side of the gym and existing high school, and will actually increase since the playground will be moved to a fenced area in the front of the elementary school.
The ag shop will not require any remodeling.
Marske said that bidding has been very competitive, and other school projects his company has worked with in the area have been coming in under budget.
The new gym and locker room upgrades are projected to be $1.8 million using precast walls and includes everything such as wooden floor, dividing curtains, seating, etc. A steel building could be used to cut costs, which is estimated around $200,000 less. Marske said that also cuts the life span of the building. The current gym was built in 1974 and has a 40 to 50 year life expectancy. Precast is anywhere from 60 to 80 years.
If the vote passes, the school classroom area will be completed by August of 2014. The new gym would be completed by August of 2015. The students would not be relocated, so would be able to continue classes together during the construction.
The new school would also be large enough to accommodate growth, and it was reported that the kindergarten class was large enough this year that it was necessary to split it into two groups. Next year’s projected kindergarten class is already at 32. During the past few years the enrollment for the school has increased from 220 to a current number of 265.
Toby Morris from Dougherty and Company, which is the company that does financing for schools and issues the bond talked about the importance of doing the project now while interest rates are at an all time low. As a result of the extremely low rate environment, there would likely never be a need to refinance, and the low fixed rate would be locked in for 30 years.
The tax levy example is 2.62 per $1,000 of valuation, which is what Morris described as the worse case scenario. He explained that as valuation goes up, taxes should go down.
The levy of the bond does not discriminate between ag or commercial property.  The levy is equal across the board, so unlike an opt out, it stays the same straight across. The $1,000 valuation of ag land would be taxed the same as $1,000 of owner occupied or commercial property.
During the afternoon meeting, Kay Schmidt, president of the Gettysburg School Board, told the group that the board had done a lot of research and weighed all the options for the project and believe with the current interest rates that this is the time to move forward. “Somebody in 1922 had the courage to spend the equivalent amount to educate my family,” she said, adding that it’s time to take responsibility and do the same for our future.
Another community meeting will be held on Thursday, April 4 at 7 p.m. in the GHS gymnasium. A presentation will be presented by HKG Architects and the school board will be available to help answer questions. Tours of the high school will be given to show the deterioration of the 91 year old building.
The election is April 9 at the Gettysburg Firehall, and absentee voting may be done from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the school business office. Barb Everson, business manager for the school, will be at the school on Good Friday from 1-3 p.m. for absentee voting, and reminds voters to bring their drivers license to cast a ballot.
By Molly McRoberts

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