The Grand Island Public School board president says the changes to seven schools they’re asking the community to fund is just the top of a long needs list, so though it’s a big price tag, board members are unanimously standing by their decision.
GIPS leaders say the need for new and updated school buildings are driven by growth – the same problem that makes it hard to answer a common question: how soon will the district need another bond if this one passes?
“We have both space issues from a programmatic standpoint – numbers of programs – and then also just more kids,” says Superintendent Dr. Rob Winter.
Enrollment is one part, and how those students learn is another.
“We don’t sit children in desks and expect them to sit there for six or eight hours of a day – the programming that we do is a lot more collaborative and we need additional space for that,” says GIPS Board President Jennifer Worthington.
The district says their plan creates that additional space by building a new Starr Elementary School at the Corner of Adams Street and Stolley Park Road – just west of Barr Middle School. Jefferson Elementary and Stolley Park Elementary would be torn down and rebuilt on their existing sites. Engleman Elementary and Shoemaker Elementary would be updated. Barr Middle School would be added on to, and a wing of Grand Island Senior High that was vacated after the Career Pathways Institute opened would be redone for more classrooms. Total cost: $69.9 million.
With the scope of the project decided, the board says working on details and getting voter support comes next. A special election via mail-in ballot will start in late August and end September 9.
“We go to work with our architects, we go to work with the community to inform the community, educate the community about what the issues are with ultimately pointing toward that September date,” says Winter.
Worthington says school walk-throughs and meetings can highlight the problems they see with outdated layouts and crowded classrooms.
“If we talk about that, if we show it to people, I believe that they’ll be supportive,” she says.
School leaders say if the bond is not successful come September, they’ll start talking with Grand Islanders again. But Winter says a survey shows most people are in favor, and the board says it was community feedback that led them to adding the Barr Middle School update back into the final project.
“When we heard that we decided we need to talk about this again and decide if we could add [Barr] on – we were worried about the amount, it does add quite a bit to the project,” says Worthington.
Not including Barr would have made the project cost about $10 million less.
Grand Island voters will get their say in a $69.9 million building project for Grand Island Public Schools later this fall.
The school board met in a special meeting Wednesday night to make final decisions about renovating some schools and rebuilding others.
Eight of nine board members were present, unanimously approving the referendum. The mail-in ballot will be sent out in August with a vote date of September 9.
Five elementary schools – Stolley Park, Jefferson, Starr, Shoemaker, and Engleman; one middle school - Barr; and a wing of the high school are part of the big building project.
GIPS staff and the board have been working on it for more than a year, but say there is still work to be done between now and the special election.
NTV News reporter Megan Johnson will break down the details in our Thursday evening shows.