It is anticipated that Leavenworth Board of Education members will decide Wednesday whether to proceed with a $36.7 million bond issue.

It is anticipated that Leavenworth Board of Education members will decide Wednesday whether to proceed with a $36.7 million bond issue.

“I think it is important for you as a board to make a decision, yea or nay, on Wednesday,” Superintendent Mike Roth told board members during a recent work session.

If board members move forward with the proposal, the bond issue will be put before voters in the Leavenworth school district.

District officials would like to have the election in June. Roth said the election would be handled through mail ballots.

While architects are still working out some details, the major elements of the proposed bond issue include the closing of Lawson Elementary School as an elementary school. The building would be used as an early education center for all of the district's prekindergarten and kindergarten classes.

Fifth-grade classes would be moved from elementary schools to Richard Warren Middle School. The middle school would receive an addition.

Money also may be spent on other school buildings as part of the bond issue to address maintenance needs.

The bond issue would address overcrowding issues at Henry Leavenworth Elementary School and the middle school.

Board members previously had been presented a proposal for a $42 million bond. But they are now focusing on a $36.7 million bond issue.

Roth said district officials would seek state funding to help pay for the bond issue. And the amount of state aid available for the current fiscal year limits the total amount of the bond issue.

Roth believes the state government could provide funding for about 25 percent of a $36.7 million bond issue.

Roth said district officials believed a $42 million bond issue would be tax neutral when it comes to the district's mill levy. The mill levy is used in determining property taxes.

With bonds from an earlier bond issue scheduled to be paid off next year, district officials believed a $42 million bond issue could have been implemented while keeping the mill levy flat.

If voters were to approve a $36.7 million bond issue, the district's mill levy may decrease, Roth said.

Representatives of DLR Group, Overland Park, plan to refine plans in order to reduce the estimated cost of the proposed bond issue to $36.7 million.

James French of DLR said the architectural and engineering firm will focus on a proposal that would utilize the Lawson Elementary School building as an early education center for all of the district's prekindergarten and kindergarten classes.

This option was reviewed with board members Thursday during a work session of the Board of Education.

The initial proposal for a $42 million called for closing Lawson Elementary School. But the plan called for the renovation of another vacant building within the district for use as an early education center.

For Thursday's meeting, DLR prepared several other options for consideration including the use of the Lawson building as the early education center.

Board member Nancy Klemp said Thursday that people feel it is important for the neighborhood around Lawson Elementary to have a school.

“I don't think the community is going to let us walk away from Lawson,” board Vice President Doug Darling said.

DLR representatives presented two options for using the Lawson building as an early education center. One option is for what DLR called minimal renovations. The estimated cost of these renovations is $8.3 million.

The second option called for an addition to the building. The estimated cost for the addition and renovations to Lawson for this option is $12.3 million.

Representatives of DLR offered other options for board members to consider Thursday including using the Lawson Elementary building as a center for fifth- and sixth-grade classes.

Based on comments from board members, French said DLR officials will provide board members with more details about the option for minimal renovations to make the Lawson building an early education center.

During Thursday's meeting, board members were told the estimated cost for the overall bond issue with the option of minimal renovations to Lawson is $38.3 million. This is more than the $36.7 million that is now the target amount for a bond issue.

French said DLR officials will do what they can to refine the numbers to meet the target.

Roth said none of the options presented Thursday included money for the Nettie Hartnett Education Center.

“The functionality of that building needs to be addressed,” he said.

He estimated that between $3 million and $5 million needs to be spent on this building, which houses various programs for the school district.

Wednesday's meeting of the Leavenworth Board of Education is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the district's administrative office, 200 N. Fourth St.

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