Voters to decide on bonds for Juneau School District

Approval would mean $6.945 million for school improvements

Posted: Monday, September 22, 2003

Local voters will decide Oct. 7 whether to spruce up the eighth-grade wing and the exterior of Floyd Dryden Middle School and clean up some discolored water at Harborview Elementary School.

The city and Juneau School Dist-rict are asking voters to approve $6.945 million in bonds for the school projects. They expect the state will reimburse 70 percent of the total costs - the principal and interest - of the bonds, leaving locals with nearly $2.7 million to pay off.

Property taxpayers would pay about $10 per $100,000 of assessed value for 10 years, the city estimates.

The work at Dryden, a 31-year-old, 675-student middle school in the Mendenhall Valley, would be the second and last phase of a renovation that began this summer.

The first phase, which will be completed soon, added a new roof, replaced the ceiling tiles, painted and carpeted sixth- and seventh-grade classrooms and replaced lockers for sixth- and seventh-graders. Some bathrooms were redone. The project cost $5.5 million, of which $3.84 million was for construction. The state is reimbursing 70 percent of the cost.

The second phase is estimated to cost $6.523 million, of which $4.9 million will be for construction, said Joe Mueller, the school district's facilities manager.

The projected work includes recarpeting the eighth-grade wing and replacing its doors, flooring, ceilings, lockers, casework and plumbing fixtures. The gymnasium will get an overhead system to store wrestling mats.

The budget includes $464,000 for furnishings, such as desks and chairs, for the entire school.

The project also will recoat the school's concrete exterior, replace exterior windows and doors, extend the outdoor canopy where students wait for buses, replace sidewalks and exterior lights, resurface the parking lot, replace the gym bleachers, replace two boilers and an oil tank and add an emergency generator.

If voters approve the bonds, the work might take place in the summer of 2005, Mueller said.

The work is important and long overdue, said Sue Reishus-O'Brien, secretary of the Dryden parent and teacher organization.

The cosmetic aspects of the renovation allow students and parents to take pride in the school, Reishus-O'Brien said. The building has been deteriorating for 30 years, she said.

"It's time for a well-needed facelift," Reishus-O'Brien said, adding that the covered waiting area "is sorely needed."

The community, which also uses the school, will benefit from new gym bleachers and improvements to the parking lot, she said.

"It's not just a school for Floyd Dryden students," she said. "This is a community school. This community should, I would hope, support the entire bond because we all benefit in the long run."

But some voters may resist the bonds, which follow $25 million in bonds authorized this summer for the Juneau-Douglas High School renovation and the planned Dimond Park high school.

Resident David Hurlbut said he still has to review the details of the proposed work, but he's leaning against the new bonds. He hasn't been pleased with how the JDHS renovation money was spent.

"I've always felt there's been a lot of excess spending of money," he said of school projects. "I'll probably vote against it. I think they're squandering enough. They could have done this long ago."

The proposed bonds also include $422,000 to replace rusting galvanized steel water pipes at Harborview Elementary School downtown.

The water has been discolored for years, and the water pressure has declined as rust and other sediment built up. The interior volume of some pipes examined in 2002 had declined by 80 percent.

Studies show that the water isn't unhealthy, but it tastes "horrible" and many students are unwilling to drink from the school's water fountains, said Principal Kathi Yanamura.

Some teachers bring water from home. The school district installed filters on three fountains, but not on the fountains in each classroom.

Yanamura said, "The kids won't drink the water. And kids really do need to be hydrated."

• Eric Fry can be reached at efry@juneauempire.com.



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