ARGENTA — Argenta-Oreana High School Principal Sean German remembers discussions about needed upgrades to the campus when he arrived in 1997.
“Here we are, 21 years later,” he said. “But it's been constantly on the radar.”
And at last, those upgrades are underway.
“We've always been under the understanding that we're going to continually try to improve everything about the school district,” Superintendent Damian Jones said. “We're going to try to improve academics, we're going to try to improve the curriculum, we're going to try to improve the facilities.
"And we were able, through discussions, to come to the conclusion that the time was right, and we're able to do this (facilities) without raising property taxes.”
The Argenta-Oreana School District was able to restructure an existing bond, Jones said, take out $5.6 million in additional money and have the funds to do the work without raising property taxes.
The 1 percentage point increase in the sales taxes in Macon County that was approved by voters in 2010 was an enormous boost, Jones said. Those funds will pay back 87 percent of the bond. The revenue from that tax increase that Argenta-Oreana receives is from $580,000 to $625,000 per year, he said.
The work underway includes:
- Replace windows with energy efficient windows in the 1969 addition at the elementary and at the middle school;
- HVAC updates at all three schools, install air conditioning in Kimler Gym, the junior high and all sections of the elementary building that don't already have it, connect the junior high and high school for air and heat, install energy efficient boilers at the elementary school.
- Install all-weather track and turf football field.
- Build a multipurpose building just west of the softball diamond in Oreana, with a concession stand, restrooms, storage for the youth league, storage for middle and high school softball, a garage area, and large storage area for the elementary school.
- Install rubber flooring in the weight room at the high school.
- Build a small concession stand behind home plate at the high school baseball field.
- Asbestos removal for the caulking around the windows being removed and asbestos material being removed as part of the HVAC upgrades.
It's an ambitious agenda, but some of the work is done already.
The track and football field should be finished by May, and the HVAC work by August 2018, in time for school to start.
Jones hopes to avoid early dismissals due to heat, which he's had to call for every year since he began working in the district. The high school is air-conditioned already, but parts of the junior high and elementary school are not. Temperatures in those classrooms and in Kimler Gym have topped 100 degrees on hot days in past summers, he said.
“On our web page, we have a facility improvement plan,” he said. “It's divided into five, 10 and 15 years, and most of the items on this were on that plan previously.”
“We want to provide our students with the quality of facilities that other districts provide,” Jones said. “Last I checked, we were the last one that doesn't have an all-weather track in this area.”
The buildings already have the infrastructure necessary to add air conditioning and to upgrade the old boilers for more efficient heating.
The turf football field and all-weather track will serve multiple purposes. Students can use the field for physical education class. It will include markings for soccer and softball and baseball and the turf will allow for use even immediately after rain.
The new track will keep cinder dust from bothering students with allergies, and getting rid of the cinders will keep debris out of the school. German said bits of cinders get stuck to students' soles and tracked into the school no matter how careful they try to be, and then it scratches the floor and brings in dirt.
Athletics director Mike Williams said that it isn't “sexy,” but getting new boilers and installing air conditioning are desperately needed improvements, as is the new storage for the elementary building. Those are things he's particularly happy about.
“We're using shipping containers now, and they're an eyesore,” Williams said.