After reading Kevin Allenspach’s article, it’s difficult to give the ISD 742 School Board the benefit of the doubt.

Last fall, the school board argued that it was wiser to build a new school (estimated cost of $113.8 million) than to remodel the current Tech High School. Allenspach’s article highlights the untrustworthiness of the School Board’s numbers. For instance, Allenspach notes that “the district’s pre-referendum estimate of $85 million in maintenance during the next 10 years just to keep the school in use” is being questioned by 2 Tech grads.

Sarah Murphy and Claire VanderEyk are both architects and Tech graduates. They’re both convinced that the ISD 742 School Board’s $85,000,000 estimate isn’t accurate. The School Board’s estimate includes “$10 million-$15 million for roofing, $20 million for a boiler replacement, $5 million for a chiller replacement, $5 million for window replacement, $10 million for asbestos removal, $1 million for brick tuckpointing, $5 million for plumbing, $2 million for lighting, $1 million for parking lots, $2 million-$3 million for electrical service, $3 million to replace classroom ceilings, $3 million to replace doors and hardware, $2 million to replace flooring, $750,000 for a building control system and $15 million-$20 million for general building repairs.”

Murphy’s response was powerful:

“Those numbers are really round, so it’s hard to take them seriously,” said Murphy, who worked for architectural firms in Minnesota and Colorado before becoming a space planner for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. “The building is 100 years old, so it’s going to need some help. But if there are real structural problems, there shouldn’t be anybody in the building. If the cafeteria has major structural issues, why are they using it? They’d be putting the kids at risk. There’s a difference between structural problems and things that are inconvenient or don’t look good, like floor tiles popping up.”

The School Board’s pitch was essentially a sky-is-falling pitch. The Board essentially said that not approving the bonds for the new Tech High School was the equivalent of putting these students at risk. It isn’t a stretch to think that the School Board tried shaming voters into approving the bonds.

Murphy has worked on similar projects, including North High School in Denver, which required technology updates and other renovations but preserved a building built in 1907. Both she and VanderEyk said they will work with the Friends of Clark Field citizens group to see if there is a way to get more information about renovating Tech.

Ms. Murphy and Ms. VanderEyk should be applauded for their efforts. I’ve learned more from them in a short period of time than I learned from the Vote Yes campaign all last fall. Most importantly, I’m thinking that I’d make a more informed decision because of these ladies’ works.

This is information that we should’ve gotten from the School Board but didn’t. That leads to the question of why we got this financial information from them. Let’s recall that Barclay Carriar admitted that the blueprint for the new Tech High School wasn’t available:

According to Barclay Carriar, a 57-year-old adviser with Ameriprise Financial and co-chair of Neighbors for School Excellence, “What a lot of them don’t recognize is, with the cost of designing a building, 80 percent of it isn’t going to be designed until after the referendum. And the plans we’ve got now are still tentative.”

That’s stunning. They asked taxpayers for $113,800,000 in bonding approval but they hadn’t designed the building. What’s up with that? How many banks would lend money based on that type of information and still be solvent 5 years from now? Hint: the number rhymes with Nero.

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