Renovations, support from voters top district wish list

Posted: Wednesday, August 10, 2005

While the Juneau School Board is looking to the state for cash to improve its campuses, it also will be looking to voters this fall for financial help.

Mechanical and electrical upgrades at Glacier Valley Elementary School top the list of projects in the six-year capital improvement plan unanimously approved by board members Tuesday night.

The upgrades will be the subject of a ballot proposition to go before Juneau voters in October. They'll decide whether to approve almost $6 million in bonds, district Superintendent Peggy Cowan said.

If voters support the ballot proposition, the state will cover 70 percent of the cost of the projects, Cowan said.

"Glacier Valley was built in 1964, and often has been under a good deal of overuse," Cowan said. "A lot of the systems have worn out. With the improvements, we anticipate getting another 30 years out of it."

The capital improvement plan looks to the state for another $2 million for the work. Board member Robert Van Slyke, who heads the district's facilities committee, said the chances of getting the state to fund projects from the district's capital improvement requests are enhanced when there are local contributions.

Alaska's 53 school districts are required to submit their six-year capital improvement plans by Sept. 1. Ultimately, it will be up to the Alaska Legislature to decide how much of the requests will be funded, said Harry Gamble, information officer for the state Department of Education.

"We look at every school's capital needs," he said.

The needs statewide are prioritized, applying a body of law and a body of regulations, he said.

The Juneau district's biggest building project in the near future, the new Dimond Park high school, isn't on the wish list because the money already is in place. Last fall, when voters approved the high school funding, they also approved funding for major maintenance projects elsewhere in the district.

After the work at Glacier Valley, the board is looking for state money for additional renovations at Harborview Elementary, Gastineau Elementary, Auke Bay Elementary and the Marie Drake annex to Juneau-Douglas High School.

It hasn't been decided how the district will use Marie Drake, but any new use will require renovations, Van Slyke said.

After those renovations, the board voted to look for money for improvements to playgrounds and recreation sites districtwide. The administration ranked that 10th on the list, behind, among other things, improvements to Riverbend and Mendenhall River elementary schools. But the facilities committee moved it up to sixth, Cowan said.

The biggest need is to cover playground areas, particularly basketball courts, at Floyd Dryden and Dzantik'i Heeni middle schools, Cowan said.

"I appreciate moving this up," said board member Andi Story, attending the meeting by telephone from Minnesota. She said she has heard a lot of requests from parents.

Cowan said it's because of the frequent rain in Juneau. "All of our elementary schools have covered play areas. None of our middle schools do."

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.



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