R-III board votes to pursue bond issue

Thursday, January 18, 2007

On Jan. 10, the Exeter R-VI School Board voted to place a $1 million general obligation bond issue on the April ballot that would finance a portion of a district-wide building project.

In October, Exeter hired Brandon Dake, of Dake Wells Architecture, to develop a master plan for a district building project. Dake worked with a committee of teachers, faculty members, administrators, stu-dents and parents to develop a building plan for additional classrooms, a larger cafeteria space and a multi-purpose addition.

The planning committee developed two design options, which were then combined into the master building plan that was presented to the board last Wednesday.

According to the proposed plan, inside the courtyard area of the campus the district will build a new two-story multipurpose building, which would double as a cafeteria and a second gymnasium area.

The new 12,000-square-foot multipurpose building will include a stage area for speech and drama performances and two new classrooms, which will be used by the speech and music departments. Speech currently meets in the house located to the south of campus.

"This project will affect every student and parent that has a student in the district," said Dake. "Right now your music department is performing in the gymnasium, and the acoustics are horrible. Students are having 5:30 a.m. basketball practices because of limited space."

After the new multipurpose building is built and all cafeteria equipment has been moved into the new area, the old 4,000-square-foot cafeteria will be renovated into four additional classrooms and two new office areas.

The plan will also remove the roof from the old cafeteria and extend the roof of the new multipurpose building to cover the old cafeteria building, which will reduce some water leakage problems in the old cafeteria building.

"The cafeteria has had a lot of water damage and needs a lot of maintenance," said Dake. "We plan to tear the old roof off and cover it with the new roof. Then we can gut and renovate the building for the new classrooms and offices."

The first stage of the project will connect all areas of the campus and allow students to change classes and move between buildings without going outside, said Dake. The project would not eliminate the district's need for a mobile home that is located on the north end of the campus.

In a second phase of the project, Dake proposes the district renovate the front area of the school by widening the entrance and building new offices at the entrance. The front entrance of the building would then become the main elementary entrance. A gravel parking lot will be placed across the street from the entrance where the speech department house is currently located.

In addition, Dake would like to see the district build a new main entrance at the rear of the campus that would include several offices and be used as the main high school entrance. A second gravel parking area would be created at the north end of the campus.

After the completion of both entrance renovation projects, classes would be shifted inside the district's buildings to move all high school classes to the rear of the campus and all elementary classes to the front of the campus. With two new main entrances, all other campus entrances would be converted into exits only, said Dake.

A third phase of the proposed master building plan, calls for the construction of a new competition gymnasium. The old gymnasium will be used as an elementary and practice gym. This will give the district three gymnasium areas to practice sports and hold other activities.

"The consenses is that everyone is excited about this project, and the committee believes this plan answers all the problems we've been talking about," said Dake.

Although Dake presented the entire master plan, at this time, the district plans to only complete the first stage of the project, which would include the new multipurpose building and renovations to the old cafeteria.

That portion of the project comes with a hefty price tag because it calls for building in the middle of the courtyard on top of the old high school building. According to Dake's proposal, the first stage could be completed for around $2 million.

"This is the most expensive place to build because of the water run off and other issues," said Dake. "Bridging the pieces makes it more expensive, but in the long run this plan will get you farther down the road."

The board voted to finance half of the first phase of the project through a general obligation bond, which will require a four-sevenths approval in the April election.

The district's current assessed valuation is around $12,161,628 and the maximum total bonding capacity on a general obligation bond is 15 percent of the assessed valuation or $1,824,244.

Tina Nolan, Exeter superintendent, directed Dake to meet with the building committee again and come up with more building options. The district could consider demo-lishing the old cafeteria building and building a new building in that area later and adding two more classrooms onto the proposed multipurpose building.

"We could reduce the multipurpose cafeteria area to the size of a half court for practices and build in two additional classrooms that way also," said Dake.

If the district does not receive four-sevenths or 57 percent voter approval on the general obligation bond issue, the board could present the voters with a 50-cent leasehold bond option that would cover a portion of the project in June, August or November.

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