Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
In an effort to get more public comment on plans for the middle school, Washington Superintendent Willie Stone hosted a public forum Tuesday night at Washington High School.
About 30 people showed up to hear information on the four proposals for the middle school.
“The building is at the point where we’ve got to do something,” Stone said. “It’s not good for our kids and not good for our community.”
Before going into details of the four proposals, Stone explained the tax implications of the project.
“We can pass a $2.70 bond for $24 million, and we wouldn’t have to raise taxes,” he said. “We have a bond rolling off in 2023, which is when this new bond would begin.”
He said that a project of about $30 million would need a bond with a millage of $4.05, meaning a hike in property taxes.
Vitus Bering of SVPA Architects and Perry Hines of Carl A. Nelson went over the details of each of the four project options.
Bering said some of the pros of renovating the existing middle school are that it would maintain a long-standing building in the community; it’s a large space with 230,000 square feet; and it’s close to downtown.
Hines said renovating a 100-year-old building would be challenging from a construction standpoint.
“We don’t know what we’ll get into,” Hines said.
Renovating the entire building would cost between $22 million and $26 million.
The second option would be to renovate the current middle school gym and classrooms — an addition that was built in the 1950s — and tear down and reconstruct the remainder of the building.
“We would tear down the older part and replace it with a modern two-story building,” Bering said.
Hines said this option would have the longest construction phase of any of the options and would displace students for a long time, adding to the cost.
This option is estimated from $26 million to $30 million.
The third option adds onto the current high school and includes renovations in the old section of the high school building.
Bering said that a third gym would be added, and 57,000 square feet would be added to the building.
He added that the district could save on reduced operation costs with only having to operate three buildings instead of four.
The estimated cost would be $30 million to $34 million, but Hines explained that could come down depending on the amount of renovations they choose to do on the current high school building.
The final option is to build a new middle school, most likely on a site south of the high school by the softball fields.
“It would be designed to meet current needs,” Bering said. “It’s an opportunity for a fresh start and future growth.”
A new school building would cost from $29 million to $32 million.
A resident asked which options would be most likely to not raise property taxes.
Stone said options one (total renovation) and three (adding to the high school) could be done without raising taxes.
“It’s a lot easier to pass a bond issue with no tax increase,” the resident said.
Another question was asked about the timeline.
Bering said that if the bond passes in September, construction could begin in the spring or summer of 2022. Depending on which option is selected, construction could take a year and a half or more.
Stone said that the district has placed informational signs at Fareway, Hy-Vee, Washington State Bank and Coffee Corner.
The signs have QR codes that people with smartphones can photograph and be taken directly to the district’s survey.
The survey and information on all four options can be seen on the district’s main web page, www.washington.k12.ia.us/home, in the “What’s New” tab, listed as “MS Building Options for General Obligation Bond.”
Stone said that the district has received about 500 responses to date.
“My goal is to get 1,000 responses,” he said.