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The Highland school board is considering asking district voters to approve a bond to pay for improvements to the heating and air conditioning system at the high school and middle school.
The exact amount of the bond request has not been determined, but the district building committee has recommended a $2.6 million bond.
At a board work session on Nov. 29, board members heard about recommendations and cost estimates from Design Engineers, a Cedar Rapids-based firm that studied building needs and worked with the building committee to develop the recommendation.
Currently, the district has eight different combinations of heating and cooling systems in the building. These have been added as different parts of the building were built and renovated.
Several board members said that the district needs to get an assessment of the roof condition before proceeding, and there is a plan to add improvements to the elementary school playground to the bond and adding space on the high school for fine arts storage, which is currently jammed into a closet off of the gymnasium.
Replacing windows with more energy-efficient glass is another possibility.
Kevin Kurka, a senior mechanical engineer with Design Engineers, said the majority of the heating and cooling units will go on the roofs with the gymnasium system placed at ground level.
District consultant Mike Jorgensen said that currently some classrooms have windows open in the winter because they get so hot while others are using space heaters because they don’t warm up.
“It’s just not right in this building,” he said.
“There are areas that don’t have cooling and very little heating that will be addressed by this,” Jorgensen said.
Highland Elementary Principal Jane O’Leary said the estimate for playground equipment is $250,000 to $300,000. The school ESO has raised between $15,000 and $20,000 already for the project.
If the bond does not pass, it does not mean that the project would not move ahead. Kevin Kurka, a senior mechanical engineer with Design Engineers, said the project could be broken into phases over multiple years and completed as the district gets money in its maintenance fund.
The first step for a bond election would be a petition signed by district voters asking for a vote.
Design Engineers would hire a contractor to develop a budget with all of the projects.
The school board would then approve language for the ballot initiative, including a total bond issue amount.
The target date for the election would be August 2019.
Jorgensen noted that because of raising property values, the taxation rate may not increase with the approval of the bond issue.
“This is a great time to do something like this,” he said.