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$47.3 million school project proposed in Grand Island

By Janice L. Habuda
Updated: November 13, 2009, 8:13 AM /

Every building and even outdoor athletic facilities in the Grand Island School District would be touched by a $47.3 million capital project on which residents will vote next week.

After subtracting state aid and the application of roughly $5.39 million from the district’s capital reserve fund, district taxpayers would be responsible for approximately $2.05 million. For the owner of a home valued at $100,000, the annual school tax tab would average $9.75 for the next 15 years.

Ballots can be cast from 10 a. m. to 9 p. m. Tuesday in the high school gymnasium.

Plumbing and electrical work would be done districtwide. Security systems — featuring access control at entrances, corridor motion detectors and video surveillance monitoring — also would be added at all schools; a new, secure entrance would be built at the high school.

“Safety and security is our number one area,” School Superintendent Robert Christmann said Thursday. “I think we have done a pretty good job addressing the needs at all five schools.”

The most visible work would be undertaken at the middle and high schools, beginning with a traffic loop for buses and cars, and additional parking out front. An outdoor area for physical education will be added behind the middle school.

Among the many improvements planned for the high school:

• A new student commons/lobby.

• New carpeting, stage curtains, seats and house lights in the auditorium.

• Doubling the size of the library media center.

In addition, construction of new science and technology rooms is intended to improve the academic program.

Athletic facilities also are scheduled for improvements, including:

• Adding two soccer/lacrosse fields with portable bleachers.

• Replacing the home bleachers with 750 seats and a new press box.

• Adding a concession stand and electronic baseball scoreboard.

If voters approve, construction isn’t expected to start until March 2011, with completion anticipated by September 2013.

District officials and School Board members have appeared at several community meetings to spread the word about the proposal.

But some residents have complained, in letters to the local newspaper, about the lack of specificity about the project.

The reason for that is financial, in part. Christmann said further details would be worked out if the project receives voter approval. Should it be rejected, the district would have to absorb all of the architectural expenses incurred so far.

“We have tried to do the best we can without wasting taxpayer dollars,” Christmann said.

School Board President Rich Little, who attended the community meetings, lamented “a lack of participation” by residents.

“If there [are] questions, you really hope more people would come,” he said. Residents who do have questions are encouraged to contact School Board members or district officials.

Looking ahead to Tuesday’s vote, Little said: “We would just hope that they get correct information and vote with educated information.”