Bond issue push gets board help

By Carolyn Cole
Published on August 14, 2008

A proposed spring bond issue that would fund a remodel of Mustang High School got a boost Tuesday when school board members directed a task force to begin interviewing architects.

Bond Projects Director Jim Burkey said task force members narrowed their list to 15 priorities for the campus, and now they need help determining what project ideas are realistic, if the district can afford them and how they will be designed.

Board President Jeff Johnson and Vice President Tony Ellison suggested the committee select three or four architectural firms based on interviews, recommendations from contractors and their work in other school districts. These architects would be invited to present their ideas for the high school campus to board members at a future meeting.

Mustang School District officials plan to bring a bond election to voters in April, which could total $20 million. Besides including funding to buy school buses, computers and equipment and money to pay for repairs, Burkey said the bond issues could also seek money to buy 80 acres of land at the southeast corner of Czech Hall Road and SW 44th Street.

School officials are using $1.4 million in MAPS for Kids bond funds to buy 80 acres in the area — the deal is set to close later this month. The contract includes an option to buy another 80 acres in 2009.

The 160-acre plot would give the school district room for future school sites and would allow school officials to plan buildings to cope with growth, Burkey said.
“You can build a school system on it,” he said.

Still, the centerpiece of the April bond proposal is expected to focus on Mustang High School campus improvements.

School board members directed a task force of educators and local residents to study the campus, and their findings are expected in December.

Burkey said squeezing in between 25 and 30 more classrooms at the campus is a top priority identified by the task force, and members have ideas for remodeling existing buildings and the construction of new facilities. If a new facility is built, he said it would likely be a two-story building similar to the existing Commons Building to fit it onto the high school’s campus.

Last school year, Principal Terry Tipton said several teachers floated their classes between open classrooms last year due to a lack of space.

Another concern is the media center, which director Karl Dowell said is smaller than guidelines for a school of MHS’ size. Burkey said the task force has proposed creating a new media center facility.

Changes to the MHS auditorium were also proposed, he said, including removing seats to create more aisles and moving sound and lighting equipment controls backstage.

Years ago, Burkey said officials aimed to fit all of the high school’s students into the auditorium during assemblies, which is no longer possible. Now he said the district needs more room to improve accessibility to seats.

Task force members have also examined ways to expand the school’s cafeteria space to seat 1,000 youth.

School board member Dona Zanotti has asked if the district’s child nutrition staff could cook all of the food served at middle and high schools themselves, and Director Tammy Bales told board members they would need more preparation space at the high school. Burkey said the task force is studying enlarging the kitchen and cafeteria.

Task force members are also looking for designs to bring Bronco Stadium in line with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. The facility was built decades before the law was created and isn’t required to meet guidelines.

The home-side can accommodate at most 2,500 spectators, and the west-side can seat about 1,500 people, which isn’t enough room for large games, such as Mustang versus Yukon. School officials have said the district would need to accommodate at least 10,000 spectators to host football playoffs, and additional seating is necessary for Mustang to host its own marching band tournaments.

Plans that have been discussed include excavating the west hill near Bronco Field, moving the home side and turning fans’ backs to the setting sun. The work could be completed in phases, and the final structure would include office and storage space, locker rooms, concessions and restrooms.

If voters approve the bond election, Burkey said the bonds would be sold in two phases, and district officials need help planning the timeline for projects around when funds would be available for them.

“It’s going to be an interesting project from that standpoint,” he said.

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