BUCKTOWN - A task force studying facilities needs for the Owen J. Roberts School District has come up with several options to address the district's growing enrollment.
One option is a revision in grade structures, with elementary schools retaining kindergarten through fifth grades. The task force also recommends grouping grades 6 and 7 in a new intermediate school proposed for the Kutz/Painter property recently acquired by the school district.
Option 1 also calls for the modification of the existing middle school to accommodate grades 8 and 9 with grades 10 through 12 occupying the existing newly renovated high school.
The second option utilizes a slightly different grouping with elementary schools retaining kindergarten through fifth grades, existing middle school modified to accommodate grades 9 and 10, and the high school housing only grades 11 and 12. This plan calls for construction of a new intermediate school on the Kutz/Painter property that would house grades 6, 7, and 8.
Option 3 closely resembles the first option with the new building housing only grades 8 and 9, middle school housing grades 6 and 7, and the high school grades 10 through 12.
Option 4 addresses the restructuring of the district's elementary grade configuration to include sixth grade. Under this plan the existing middle school would be modified to accommodate grades 7 through 9 while students in grades 10 through 12 would attend the high school.
The fourth option includes a construction component that proposes building two new elementary schools, each with a 650-student capacity.
In each case, estimated costs for the proposed building projects fall around the $60 million. Estimates were calculated based on industry standards for schools of specific size and description.
Each of the proposed options would necessitate realignment of attendance boundaries in order to fully utilize the capacity of the district's elementary schools.
In addition, the task force formulated a number of general recommendations, including maintaining current design criteria of 650 students for elementary schools and 1,350 for secondary schools.
Also under consideration are enhanced security measures in all buildings and correction of operational inequities among buildings in cases where they adversely impact delivery of the educational program or operation of support services such as maintenance and technology.
In describing the decisions faced by the task force as it works to make final recommendations to the school board, Chairwoman Debbie Bissland said, "The most efficient way to do it is to redistrict the kids so each building is filled to capacity."
She suggested that redistricting and modifications in room configurations present some possibilities for viable solutions.
"We're not locked into any one of the options," she stated.
In late 2003, the school board voted to approve the appointment of Public Financial Management Inc. as the district's independent financial advisor related to proposed financing of capital projects.
On the advice of PFM's professionals and district Business Administrator Denny Bolton, the board approved a forward bond purchase, locking in a desirable rate on $60 million in anticipation of capital projects slated for May 2005. New legislation allowed the district to lock in the interest rate while not actually borrowing funds until 2005.
On Feb. 16, representatives of the architectural firm Diseroad, Wolff, Kelly, Clough & Bucher Inc. of Horsham will meet with task force members to answer questions and provide additional information such as costs associated with site preparation, Bissland said.
She indicated that she expects the meeting is likely to "bring the actual numbers more into focus."
Bissland emphasized that she is "looking for the fiscally responsible way to address the problems."