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School district holds informational meeting ahead of bond vote, May 9

On Tuesday, May 9 voters in the Lennox School District will go to the polls to vote on a nearly $17.3 million bond project that will add an auxiliary gym, a larger weight room, two additional varsity locker rooms a new designated activities lobby, a remodeled kitchen and cafeteria, along with a new performing arts center.

To provide more information to the voters, two informational meetings were scheduled. The first of those meetings was held last Thursday, Apr. 20 at the LHS cafetorium.

Superintendent Chad Conaway presented those in attendance with the reasoning behind the need for the bond project. When a study was conducted in 2022, it was noted that shared spaces were being strained with the growing student population, which has grown in the junior high and high school to 546 students, a rise of 119 students from the 2015-2016 school year.

“Given our location, we certainly think the growth is going to continue,” said Conaway.

Conaway spoke on each specific item included in the project.

The kitchen remodel will allow for two lines of service that will greatly speed up the amount of times students have to wait in line, giving them more adequate time to eat as well, which can be hard if you are in the back of the line, Conaway noted.

Currently the cafetorium can seat 200 students for lunch but with the addition of a performing arts center, the cafetorium can be reconfigured to seat an additional 112 seats for students at lunch time.

The auxiliary gym included in the project would be 90 square feet by 200 square feet and would have up to 550 seats.

“This would give us a chance to spread out,” said Conaway who noted that in the fall volleyball teams, and boys and girls basketball teams are all trying to hold practice.

This extra gym would also give spring sports an additional location in case of inclement weather and help accommodate various youth programs.

During the school year, the athletic director is also trying to schedule gym time for 22 youth programs so additional space would be helpful.

The performing arts center would feature 900 seats and a 30 foot by 100 foot stage area along with a 30 foot by 100 foot shop and drama storage area.

“This would be a space designed specifically for performances in fine arts,” said Conaway. He also feels it would be enticing for those looking to move into the area.

“People will look at what we offer for programs, what our facilities look like and what our academics are,” he added.

The weight room would be 44 feet by 90 feet, which is three times larger than the current space built in 2003.

“We have more students athletes trying to get through and get their workout done in an efficient manner,” said Conaway. This new weight room would allow that to happen.

The new varsity locker rooms would be 30 feet by 50 feet and the new actives lobby would feature two new restrooms, a new concession area, and storage rooms.

The cost of the project is $17,260,000, which is broken down in the following way: the auxiliary gym, fitness center, and locker rooms will cost $8,500,000; the performing arts center will cost $8,600,000 (there is an 800-seat option that would reduce the cost by $200,000); and the kitchen remodel which would cost $160,000.

Jerry Spethman, Investment Banker at DA Davidson and Co. out of Omaha, NE, was on hand to speak more to the financial aspect.

He noted that the current bond that was taken out for the High School in 2003 will be paid in full this July, relieving tax payers of that commitment. The new bond, which will be structured on a 25-year repayment schedule, will see a tax levy of $1.01 per $1,000.

Conaway said to figure out how much your taxes would increase homeowners should take their home value, divide it by 1,000 and multiply that number by $1.01 and that would be the amount you would have to pay.

Should the bond pass on May 9, Spethman said the money would be transferred to the District on July 13. The bond levy would start during the fiscal year 2025-26 .

“When you have good top-notch facilities, folks come in and move into your community,” said Spethman. “Your community grows and there are a lot of benefits that come along with that.”

During the meeting, community members were given the opportunity to ask questions.

One resident asked about opening the school gymnasiums to the public.

“We currently have four gyms and are looking to add a fifth,” said Conaway. “The 22 youth programs are already competing with all the things we are already doing as a school district. We do get quite a few requests for gym use and have tried to honor these requests but we can’t as a school district give people 24 hour access to the gyms,” Conaway continued noting liability and safety concerns.

Athletic director, Darin Eich, said he has told those who inquire about gym use space that they can host and open gym but they would be responsible for those who attend.

Another resident in attendance asked about classroom space if the district continues to grow.

Conaway said while this bond focuses on the common space, they would be able to add a wing to the west side for additional classroom space should the district need it.

“This is something that wouldn’t be bond dependent,” Conaway added. It would be funded through certificates like how the Lennox Elementary project was done.

A citizen spoke about the number of seats for the Performing Arts Center and wondered how this number was arrived.

Steve Jastram, principal architect at Architecture Incorporated who will oversee the project if the bond passes, said that the size of the performing arts center is always a big discussion in every school that they do.

“The school board hasn’t decided for sure on 900 seats but I think it seems practical for a district of your size and you will keep growing,” said Jastram. “Performing arts center are used every day for many, many events and many classrooms other school districts have told us.…I think you picked a sweet spot for how much seating.”

One questions brought up was how the old weight room will be utilized.

Conaway said while this is currently undecided they will look at several different options and evaluate the best way to use that space.

Another question was if they could add end bleachers to the South end in the current gym to help adults see the gym floor better as the students like to stand in the bleachers during the game.

Jastram said that is a possibility. “You’d have to remove the one wall in the existing gym,” he said but also added that is not in the current plan or in current budget.

One resident asked if Lennox sees growth in the next ten years would the tax levy decrease over time.

“Yes that is correct…as valuations increase that levy should come down” said Conaway who noted that the 2003 bond for the high school was $2.81 when it first started but was $1.41 per $1,000 during the last full year in 2022.

A citizen asked about the performing arts center and wondered if the community would be able to utilize it.

“Yes I hope so,” said Conaway. “I hope we get community plays here, I think something like would be great…I would welcome outside community groups to use it as intended.”

When asked if construction would affect the students during the school year, Jastram, of Architecture Incorporated, said if the bond passes, Architecture Incorporated would need to finish all the drawings which would take about 5-6 months. They would look at getting bids in December of 2023 or January of 2024 with the hopes to start construction in April of 2024 with a completion date of July 2025.

“So one full school year would be affected by construction,” said Jastram. “But it would be minimal disruption to the existing school. Everything in and out of the front door would continue as it and we’ll maintain exits during construction and provide a temporary driveway to go back to the shop area during the construction period as well.”

When asked what will happen if the bond does not pass, Conaway said, “If it doesn’t pass it would be my goal to figure out why and then go from there. Once I figure out the why, it would steer what direction we would take.”

He added that they would still use funds to remodel the kitchen but it would be a couple of years before the District would tackle that as they have other projects they have committed to; Conaway thought most likely the 2025-2026 school year.

“If this bond fails, we are still going to have school next year and everything will be fine, but we might have issues later on,” he added.

Conaway encourages voters to come out and vote on the bond, whether they are for or against it.

Polls open at 7 a.m. on May 9 and close at 7 p.m. Voters in Precinct 1 will vote at the Worthing Fire Station, voters in Precinct 2 will vote at the Chancellor City Hall, and voters in Precinct 3 will vote at the LWC Intermediate School. The bond will require a 60% majority vote to pass.

The next informational meeting will be held Thursday, May 4 at the LHS Cafetorium at 7 p.m.


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