Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
At a sparsely attended community meeting Tuesday night, Washington school Superintendent Willie Stone offered details on the two remaining options for a new middle school.
Last month, the school board whittled four options down to two — renovating the old part of the high school and adding onto it or building a new building on a new site.
Vitus Bering of SVPA Architects provided some of the details on the option to renovate part of the high school.
Included in that project would be:
• A two-story, 21,000-square-foot classroom addition onto the high school to relocate high school students currently using the old junior high school area.
• A 9,550-square-foot gym addition.
• A 19,000-square-foot addition to the former junior high school area.
• Renovation of 52,550 square feet of the former junior high school area.
“This combines two attendance centers into one,” Bering said.
Stone said that although both high school and middle school students would be in the same building, they would be separated.
Perry Hines of Carl A. Nelson offered a timeline on the project.
“This option would take two to two and a half years before middle-schoolers could move into that new space,” Hines said. “It’s a multiphase project, and there will be some disruption while kids are in classes.”
Stone explained that this option would not raise taxes in the district for the $24 million project.
“If we go to this building, our tax rate would stay level,” Stone said. “We have a $2.70 bond (levy) that falls off in 2023. This bond would take the place of that one.”
However, that would force the district to put off the renovation of the former junior high area until 2029, Stone added.
“In 2029, what we borrowed for the new high school from sales tax falls off,” he said. “Then, we would do a total renovation of the old building.”
He added that the district received $3.6 million in federal CARES money, and the district can used that to upgrade the HVAC system in the building.
“If we go with this, we have a plan to get everything done,” Stone said.
Regarding the new building on a new site option, Bering said that only preliminary footprint drawings have been done.
“We have gone through and designed a building and put together a program for 400 kids,” Bering said, adding that the building would be approximately 82,000 square feet.
The site would be adjacent to the high school softball field with two entrances — one from West Buchanan Street and the other from South B Avenue and Sitler Drive.
“You could move in in a year and a half,” Hines said. “There would be no disruption to students.”
Stone said that the downside would be that property taxes would have to be raised to pay for the $32 million project.
He said that someone with a $300,000 home would see their tax bill go up by $221, while owners of large amounts of farm acreage could see an even more significant increase in their tax bills.
It was noted that neither option includes any renovation plans for the current 100-year-old middle school.
Stone said that there is money built into the project estimates for potential demolition of the old school.
He said the district is willing to hear offers from reputable contractors who may want to rehab the building.
“We’ll give it three years,” Stone said. “This building will not become an eyesore in this community.”
The district still is seeking public input on the two options. There is a poll posted on the district’s website.
The school board is expected to choose one of the two remaining options at its June 9 meeting, with an eye on having a bond election in September.