Address safety concerns, aging facilities

by: Graph by Becky Johnson - The Culver School District will present a school improvement bond in the Nov. 8 election.

After nine months of study on school facilities, a community task force of 60 people recommended that Culver School District put a $14.5 million bond levy up for a vote in the Nov. 8 election.
   The Culver District's last successful bond in 1995 was for $7.5 million, which built a new middle school and new elementary. That bond was paid off in June 2010.
   By 2006, the student population had outgrown the elementary school and the district unsuccessfully attempted to pass a $20 million bond to construct another elementary, and add classrooms elsewhere.
   This time around, a smaller bond amount is being requested to address safety concerns and aging buildings.
   "In 2006, there was a 12 percent increase in student growth, and people panicked," said J.D. Alley, who is co-chairing the bond campaign with Terry Macy.
   "Right now, we need some space, but it's more about buildings that are approaching the end of their usefulness," he said, adding, "Five of our eight buildings need extensive repairs and upgrading."
   The new bond would include four projects: a high school remodel; upgrade of the gym, elementary wing and support services building; construction of an athletic building at the field complex; and help pay the debt on adjacent land acquired for future growth.
   Culver High School
   "Culver High School was built in 1963 and has roof issues. We also didn't use as many electrical devices back then and the building doesn't have enough plug-ins to allow for computers, laptops and SmartBoards," Alley said.
   The library media center would be modernized, and technology upgraded to provide high-speed Internet to all classrooms and wireless networks in the building.
   An additional 14,000 square feet would be added to provide eight new classrooms at CHS, and science and chemistry rooms would be modernized.
   New entrances and a remodel of the main office would allow greater building security.
   "It would improve student safety, and the office could monitor visitors to screen for potentially nonfriendly visitors," Alley said.
   Safety code items include making bathrooms handicap accessible, removing asbestos floor tiles, and installing a new fire sprinkler system.
   A problem in all the older buildings is the 50-year-old steam heating system.
   "We're trying to move away from the diesel-powered steam boilers and modernize. Now there is no cooling and no ventilation in classrooms, and some areas just have a radiator without fans," he said.
   In receent tests taken when the outside temperature was 72-degrees, Alley said he found, "Some classrooms were 82-degrees, with every door open -- which is not safe for security. That is not an environment kids or staff can perform in."
   CHS, the gymnasium, elementary school and support services building will all replace the outdated boilers with energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems.
   The high school's improvements would cost an estimated $6.17 million.
   In the high school gym, P.E. and sports locker space would be expanded.
   When the gym was built in 1980, Culver had about 150 students using lockers.
   "We have about 400 high school and middle school students using them today, and it's very cramped for space, particularly when we host a game," said Alley, who also coaches.
   Gym security would be tightened up, motorized bleachers installed, and the stage would be sanded and resurfaced. (See cost below).
Elementary school
   Two older elementary wings would be demolished and replaced with eight new, structurally-sound classrooms.
   "The old wings have a block foundation and block walls, and there are serious cracks in the walls which won't survive seismic activity. We'd have a roof on top of our kids," Alley said of safety concerns.
   An HVAC system, new windows, and new lighting would be installed and the school's security features enhanced. (See cost below).
   Student services
   The Student Services building would get new windows, an HVAC system, and new lights.
   It would cost an estimated $4.5 to modernize the gym, elementary and support services buildings.
   Athletic complex
   A new 10,000-square-foot building would be constructed at Culver's athletic field complex. The building would allow for public restrooms, concessions, lockers, a activity room and athletic storage.
   Currently, CHS athletic complex facilities consist of two trucking containers and a portapotty.
   The idea, Alley explained, is for wrestling to move out of the gym complex and into the new athletic complex building. The old wrestling room at the gym would be converted into two team rooms with showers.
   The athletic building would cost an estimated $1.9 million.
   Property at Iris/Elby
   Under a former superintendent, when the economy was better, the district agreed to purchase 14.2 acres of nearby property at Iris and Elby lanes for future expansion. But the interest-only payments of $6,000 per year have been coming out of the general fund.
   "Culver has always been proud of keeping its campus all intact. You can stand in the middle and hit anywhere on campus with a rock," Alley observed.
   "That property is close and perfect and it is used now as a learning lab by CHS agricultural students," he said.
   "We've offered education in Culver for 100 years, and hope to do it for another 100 years. And at some point in time, the district will need that property for expansion, and the acquisition will look like a pretty smart move," Alley stated.
   Passage of the bond would refinance the $1.9 million debt on that property, which would protect the district's general fund.
   Otherwise, Alley cautioned, "The district will have to be making a $250,000 (balloon) payment out of the general fund if this bond doesn't pass -- which was not budgeted for."
   Taxpayer cost
   The $14.5 million bond levy would cost taxpayers $3.46 per $1,000 on the assessed value of their property.
   With the average home in Culver costing $74,000, that would pencil out to $256.04 per year, or $12.34 per month.
   The bond levy would be in addition to the annual school levy taxes of $4.87 per $1,000 for the Culver School District's operational costs.
   Schools have always been the center of Culver community activities, Alley noted. The people rallied in 1946 when the high school gym burned down, and rebuilt it. The community built CHS in 1963, approved a remodel and addition to the gym in 1981, and passed the 1995 construction bond.
   "Every 15 to 20 years, our community has stepped up to the plate to maintain our structures," Alley said.
   Some think with the poor economy, it's a bad time to go out for a bond. "But in a down economy, you can get a lot more building for a lot less money. It's a good time to build," he said.
   "If we have good schools, people will look harder at buying homes in Culver, and it will impact the local economy," Alley added.
   For more information on Culver's school bond, contact Alley at 541-948-3520, or Terry Macy at 541-350-9261.
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