When they met Wednesday, members of the Leavenworth Board of Education were presented a proposal for a $42 million school bond issue.

When they met Wednesday, members of the Leavenworth Board of Education were presented a proposal for a $42 million school bond issue.

The plan would close Earl M. Lawson Elementary School, but the building possibly could be used for other purposes. The plan also would add on to Richard Warren Middle School. And the proposal would convert an unidentified building into an early education center for prekindergarten and kindergarten students.

The board took no action regarding the proposal, but some members had questions about the plan.

Board members plan to have a special meeting Feb. 6 to discuss the proposal.

With bonds from an earlier bond issue scheduled to be paid off soon, Superintendent Mike Roth said district officials believe a $42 million bond issue could be enacted without raising the school system's mill levy.

The mill levy is used in determining property taxes.

The proposed plan was presented to board members Wednesday by Amber Beverlin with DLR Group. DLR Group is an architectural and engineering firm that was hired by the school district to assist with a possible bond issue.

Beverlin said the proposal was being brought forward by a committee of community members called a vision team. She said this group's priorities included fiscally responsible solutions, an early education center that would focus on kindergarten readiness, having grades five through eight at Warren Middle School, relieving overcrowding and creating collaborative learning environments.

According to the plan, $23.8 million would be spent at Warren Middle School for an addition that would house fifth- and sixth-grade classes as well as other improvements. The plan would move fifth-grade classes from the district's four elementary schools to Warren.

The existing Warren Middle School building, which would house seventh- and eighth-grade classes, also would undergo renovations.

Beverlin said $12 million could be spent to renovate an existing building into the early education center.

She did not identify an existing building in the school district that could be used for the purpose. But she provided photographs of an early education center in Kearney, Missouri, that opened in what was formerly a supermarket.

She said renovating an existing building would be $4 million cheaper than constructing a new facility.

Board member Nancy Klemp asked about using the district's current administrative office for the early education center.

Beverlin said the building that houses the administrative office is too small.

With prekindergarten and kindergarten classes moved to a new location and fifth-grade classes moved to the middle school, four elementary schools would not be necessary, Beverlin said.

And under the proposed plan, Lawson would be closed. Beverlin said the vision team is not recommending that Lawson be used for the early education center.

But Beverlin said relocating the programs currently housed at the Nettie Hartnett Education Center to the Lawson building would be an option.

Beverlin said $2.8 million would be spent on renovations at the three remaining elementary schools.

She said $3.3 million would be spent on renovations at Leavenworth High School. The renovations would include an addition with a new security entrance to the building.

Klemp questioned why fifth-grade classes could not be moved to the Lawson building.

"That's a very nice age group to put over there," she said.

Beverlin said this would create more building transitions for the students of Leavenworth public schools.

Klemp said the proposed bond issue was a lot of money.
"I think you need to think about how you can save money," she said.

Board member Loyal Torkelson expressed concern about what he said were mistakes made during previous bond issues.

"We've made so many mistakes," he said. "We can't afford to do that again. What will people think?"

Roth said one of the things school officials are trying to create is the next generation of learning spaces.

"Education is changing," he said.

He said district officials can be progressive and try to be innovative or they can stay with the status quo. He said district officials are "going to miss the boat" if they stick with the status quo.

If board members do not want to move forward with the bond issue, Roth said the district will move to plan B. He said this will entail "band-aiding what we have and making it work."

"I know this is a touchy matter," he said.

Roth acknowledged board members have had past experiences.

"All I ask is you let the past be the past," he said.

Board members heard from Dannielle Wells, a parent who served on the vision team.

She called the proposed plan the "best case scenario all around."

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