Jan 15, 2022 3:50 PM

Majority of USD 489 bond survey respondents in favor of upgrades

Posted Jan 15, 2022 3:50 PM
Photo courtesy of Pixabay<br>
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

District shooting for May 10 election

By CRISTINA JANNEY
Hays Post

The Hays USD 489 school district heard a report on a community survey on facilities at its work session on Monday.

Superintendent Ron Wilson said he thought two themes worth noting were 70 percent of respondents said USD 489 is not keeping pace with other districts in terms of facilities.

Seventy percent also said an investment in school facilities is needed in order for Hays schools to continue to grow.

The district received about 900 responses from the community-wide survey with responses coming from a combination of parents, grandparents, district staff and taxpayers.

A majority of respondents — 55.7 percent said they thought USD 489 facilities did not meet the education needs of students.

Sixty-six percent of respondents said they did not think the current facilities met the future needs of students, and 76.8 percent of respondents said the facilities were not sufficiently updated or modernized.

The survey also asked several questions about the learning needs of students, and 84.6 percent of respondents said the learning needs of students are different today than they were when many of the district's facilities were built.

Several questions asked about how important the respondents thought school facilities were to the future success of Hays as a whole.

Just over 81 percent of survey respondents said the making a significant investment in schools is a critical priority for the community. Eighty-two percent said an investment in facilities was needed to help ensure people choose Hays to raise a family, and 71 percent of respondents said they thought improvements in schools was needed to maintain and grow home values.

The community was more split on what improvements should be made at district schools.

The district has floated three major plans for a possible bond issue. Each includes building a new school, either a high school, middle school or elementary school.

Just less than 63 percent of respondents said they favored building a new high school and renovating the high school into a middle school. This was the bond option that received the most support.

Building a new Hays High auditorium also received significant support as did adding adequate space to all schools.

Only 27 percent of survey respondents supported building a new middle school. Multiple concerns arose in the open comments on the survey about the consolidation of two or more of the elementary schools into a larger school.

Corey Barenbrugge with Community Link, which collected the survey data for the district, said the comments from the survey were very constructive and there was a general agreement improvements needed to be made.

Survey respondents said they thought available funding to upgrade facilities continues to be one of USD 489's biggest challenges along with its aging facilities.

Board Vice President Craig Pallister said he thought DLR, the district's architect, has been doing a good job of letting the community drive the contents of the bond issue.

Stephanie Meyer of DLR said, "Every meeting we've had, I've really stressed that DLR is here to be a facilitator for your community. We are not here to set what your scope is. We are here to provide the expertise to make that happen."

The district will have one more vision meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 19, at the Rockwell Administration Center.

District officials' goal is for the committee to finalize the bond scope at that meeting. If that is achieved, members of that committee will present a plan to the school board at its meeting Jan 24.

The board has released a second bond survey asking about the specific scope of the bond. That can be found on the district website or any  of the district's social media platforms.

The school board could consider a final bond proposal at its work session on Feb. 7. Once the board has decided what projects it wants to include in a bond issue, it then must decide how it will fund them.

District officials hope to set a vote on the bond before the end of school year, possibly Tuesday, May 10, Wilson said.

Cover photo courtesy of Pixabay