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This concept rendering by BLDD Architects shows how the main 1929 building of Cerro Gordo Junior-Senior High, shown at right, could be connected to a 1962 gymnasium/cafeteria building, not pictured, at left.

CERRO GORDO – When Cerro Gordo's Junior-Senior High School completed a new gymnasium and cafeteria in 1962, Bill Sparks didn't mind the short walk across the parking lot his senior year for PE class or to eat lunch.

“It was quite an improvement over what we had,” said the retired farmer, 71.

Thousands of students have made that same trek over the past 55 years, in all kinds of weather, but that could change in a couple years.

It all depends on whether the school board and ultimately district voters approve a bond issue to spend $8.2 million to connect the newer structure to the 1929 building while housing a new gym for the junior high.

The existing junior high gym, also dating to 1929, would be transformed into an auditorium for plays and other special events, and an addition built to the west in 1957 to give the junior high a more distinct space would eventually be demolished.

The school board will hold a special meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the band room to consider placing a referendum on the April 4 election ballot.

Superintendent Brett Robinson said the district needs to do $3 million of the work to comply with health and safety laws and so looked at what else could be done at the same time to improve the educational experience for students without adding too much cost.

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The plan would raise property taxes for the owner of a $100,000 home about $11 per month, or $134 per year.

Input from community meetings Nov. 21 and Dec. 14 caused the district to abandon an earlier plan for the 18,500-square-foot addition to house a new auditorium in favor of one that would not only update an outdated gym but also move it away from classrooms.

“If you have ever been in one of those rooms (on the lower level) when PE is going on in the junior high gym, it can get pretty noisy,” Robinson said.

Tony Piraino, a member of the school board, said another takeaway from the meetings will be to seek comment from teachers at the elementary school, in addition to those at the high school and junior high.

That's because they could talk about design aspects of the elementary building, completed in 2003, that haven't worked out as well as envisioned.

“All we have now are conceptual plans to give us a dollar amount,” Piraino said. “The actual design don't happen until the voters approve.”

Voters in 2000 approved a referendum to issue $4.23 million in bonds to add on to the gymnasium/cafeteria building and also construct the new elementary school.

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