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Washington Community School District seeking public’s input on construction project at middle school

Published: Apr. 22, 2021 at 11:41 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON, Iowa (KCRG) - For more than 100 years, the building that is now home to Washington Middle School has welcomed Washington County students and fostered their learning.

But the building has also gone without a major renovation since opening in 1918.

“It’s a great, sturdy structure, but it’s a structure that was built a lot differently than what everything has been built now,” Washington Community School District Superintendent Willie Stone said.

In many ways, Stone said, the school simply isn’t built for 2021 and needs to be updated.

Its entrance lacks security features, like routing visitors to an office before they can access school hallways, that are the norm in more modern buildings. Classrooms are still heated with radiators, and the staff can’t control the building’s air intake and ventilation through its HVAC system.

Other issues are worsening as time passes, like a leaking chimney that is disintegrating a wall in the school’s auditorium.

“We have some issues coming up with the current middle school building that are going to be very costly for us to try to fix, and if we’re able to do something with the building and wrap that into a major project, that really helps us,” Stone said.

School leaders are considering four options for what that project could look like, and they want people who live in the district to decide which choice is best. The final option will be up for a bond referendum vote in September, to determine if the district will get the taxpayer funding it needs to see the work through.

Option one would mean a total renovation of the current middle school building, with a cost estimate between $22 million and $30 million.

The second option entails saving a newer part of the building, which includes the gymnasium, and rebuilding everything else. That would cost between $26 million and $30 million.

In the third option, an addition would be built onto Washington High School, and the middle school would be moved to that space. Stone said that is estimated to cost around $30 million.

The final option is constructing a new middle school building on a new site, with a cost between $29 million and $32 million.

“Our goal is to really collect a lot of information from our community, try to get the options that they’ll support and try to get it down to two options,” Stone said.

The district is asking people to complete online surveys to indicate their preference. After the options are whittled down to two, staff plan to get more community input to narrow it down to the project and cost that will appear on the ballot in September.

Stone said they have received about 500 completed surveys so far, and they want to have at least 1,000 results before they take any projects off the table.

“We want to maintain transparency, and we want to get something that, when we go to the ballot, it’s no doubt, it’s going to pass,” he said.

People who live in the Washington Community School District can find out more about each project by following this link.

There will also be a community meeting on Tuesday, April 27, where they can learn more about the options, ask questions, and give their feedback through the survey. That meeting will be from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Washington High School auditorium.

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