School board selects building plan, moves forward with bid process

The architectural drawing of Option A for Phase II of DHS construction shows the new construction in green, existing areas that will receive major renovations in yellow and exisiting areas that will receive minor renovations in blue. The red lines outline the area selected to be a Federal Emergency Management Agency shelter, pending grant allocation.

The architectural drawing of Option A for Phase II of DHS construction shows the new construction in green, existing areas that will receive major renovations in yellow and exisiting areas that will receive minor renovations in blue. The red lines outline the area selected to be a Federal Emergency Management Agency shelter, pending grant allocation.

After months of debate and multiple propositions, the De Soto school board has approved a design for bid for Phase II of the De Soto High School construction project.

The design, Option A, includes a competition gymnasium, weight-training room and multi-use room, among other new spaces. In all, it will provide 44,000 square feet of new space. A Federal Emergency Management Agency-approved emergency shelter will also be built in, a feature FEMA will likely reimburse the district through grants.

According to the board’s motion, made during Monday’s special meeting, bids are not to exceed $9.3 million. The district saved $9.7 million on Phase I of the DHS construction, the Mill Valley High School expansion project and the construction of Belmont Elementary. The original bond issue, approved by voters in 2008, allowed for $75 million in bonds to be issued.

While the motion to select Option A and move forward with the bidding process was made within the first 30 minutes of the special meeting, it was not agreed upon easily.

The board voted 4-3 for the plan. Board president Tim Blankenship, vice president Tammy Thomas and member Randy Johnson all opposed the plan. Blankenship cited other capital outlay needs within the district that could be taken care of with some of the leftover $9.7 million if a smaller plan than Option A were approved.

“I think of the other needs in the district and look at this plan and the cost and Option B (which would have built less new square-footage) seems like a more efficient use of the money,” he said.

Board members favoring Option A said they taking into consideration community members’ opinions.

“During my time on this board I’ve always tried to listen to the community and to their wishes,”” said Don Clark, a board member who also sat on the design committee. “In the five months that these discussions (about Phase II) have been going on, I have yet to hear a negative response from the community, including the retirees I work with on a regular basis.”

In the end, more of the board agreed with Clark and supported the plan, much to the relief of parents, administrators and students in the audience.

“I’m happy with the board’s decision,” said De Soto High School principal Dave Morford. “I’m pleased (with Option A), though I knew whichever plan they went with would be positive.”

Many district parents are also pleased with the board’s decision, but perhaps even more excited is one district student.

“Moving forward with Option A is a great thing for DHS, we really need it,” said junior Lauren Darter. “Even if I don’t get to use the new building as a student, my younger sister will and having experienced a crowded school I’m happy to know she won’t.”

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