More classroom space for growing enrollment in the North Kansas City School District topped the wish list as the school board considers asking voters for more money in 2014.
Several of the district’s schools are projected to reach or exceed maximum capacity by 2016, district officials said. “Today we have 15 elementary schools that have no more empty classrooms,” Robert Maggio, executive director of support services, told the school board last week.
The district presented its most dire construction and maintenance needs to the school board as it begins the process of seeking a bond issue on the April 2014 ballot. Maggio told the board that enrollment projections show a need for more class space that can’t always be resolved by moving classes such as art and music to a cart.
Construction of a new middle school, elementary school or perhaps a school housing kindergarten through eighth grades was at the top of the list. But that wasn’t all the district needs, he said.
All four high school cafeterias need to be redone, he said. Oak Park is getting a kitchen and cafeteria redo this summer. And the Winnetonka High School needs a secure entrance for visitors to check in at the door, rather than walking up stairs to the school office, he said.
But the list goes on from there. Many buildings in the district need major repair and renovation, including roofing, parking lot resurfacing, painting and carpeting.
If the district satisfied every one of those needs, the price tag could come to well over $200 million. But the school is limited by state law to $85 million bonding capacity.
“We have a massive amount of needs and a finite number of resources,” said Superintendent Todd White. “We’re going to have to find a way to stretch $85 million into a number that can make some probable dent.”
The proposed bond issue for next year would be the district’s first since 2007, when Bell Prairie Elementary was built.
The presentation gave the school board a rough idea of what the biggest needs are, but did not contain a breakdown of individual costs. White said finding new class space was the top priority because the district is growing by 300 to 350 students a year. But the schools also need better security, major repairs and a strategy to make the district more energy efficient to cut future costs, he said.
Among the district’s needs:
• A transportation annex for additional bus parking. The district has run out of space to park its school buses, Maggio said. “As we grow in student population, we also grow in the number of buses needed to transport those students.”
• Roofing. Oak Park High School needs roof replacement and many more of the more than 450 sections of roof in the district need immediate repairs, he said.
• Replacing brickwork at North Kansas City High School. Currently metal bands are holding the formerly unstable bricks in place. It’s safe, but Maggio said new brickwork will be needed eventually.
• Slope stabilization at Winnetonka High School. That building has a pinned foundation so the shifting ground will not move the building. But other parts of the school grounds could use a retaining wall.
• Security upgrades including cameras, key card access and better lighting and fencing.
• Paint. “There was a time we were on a seven-year painting cycle, then we went to an eight-year cycle,” Maggio said. “Now we’re not on a painting cycle.” The last big repainting job was in 2008, he said.
• Energy management. As air conditioning units purchased in 2002 age, they will begin to need repairs or replacement.
• Athletics. North Kansas City High School needs a track and field facility, and Oak Park High would like weights and a wrestling room. But repairs are also needed on some existing facilities, Maggio said. Lights need to be replaced at Northgate Middle School, and the bubbling track surface at North Kansas City High also needs to be replaced, he said. Winnetonka needs to replace its tennis courts, which have been affected by shifting soil.
Some board members added a few ideas, such as an English language learning center or an early childhood center, to the list. They also acknowledged that meeting the district’s needs will be a challenge. Board member Dixie Youngers suggested the district pursue private donations in addition to the bond issue.
The presentation was the first of many steps the district will take in the next six months as it narrows its priorities. Officials will seek public input online and with town hall meetings.