By John Bernhardt

We are hoping for closure. After several false leads, Andes Central School is coming back to you, the voters with a capital project designed to put to rest the Civil Rights judgment against the school. The District will ask voters to approve a $976,734 capital project to address all issues left unresolved regarding the judgment. Voting will take place on September 14th from noon in the fitness room of the Technology building.

Let’s quickly review where we have been. Several years ago, the parents of a wheelchair bound student made a claim to the Federal Civil Rights Office against the district that their daughter was not receiving an equal education at Andes. A judgment from the Civil Rights Office was rendered against the District.

Two projects were eventually passed by District voters to address the issue, the first a vote to install an elevator and the second a vote to add three classrooms bringing shared programs to the lower level of the building. Both projects were shelved when bids exceeded the cost projections voters had approved.

Acting on legal advice and hoping to be clear and direct with District voters, the Board of Education elected not to use the money already approved in previous projects to fund this initiative.  The direction of this project differs from those previously approved, and the Board would like voter authorization on this project before moving forward.

During the past year, the Office of Civil Rights has modified some previously held positions. The Office will now allow us to provide portable art and library instruction to a wheelchair bound youngster and his or her classmates. Like many schools with space issues, art instruction can be delivered on a cart. Technology allows schools to bring library instruction to students with computer access anywhere on campus. The public library may also be used as an option when providing library instruction. Those decisions eliminated the need for additional classroom space.

Several issues are still unresolved. Most have to do with a handicapped student’s access to the locker room facilities, gymnasium, and stage. Those components are the foundation of the capital project we are asking you to approve.

Basically, the project involves the following:

  1. Adding handicapped accessible locker rooms, a physical education office, and a public handicapped bathroom behind the current gymnasium;
  2. Installing enclosed walkways to allow access from the northern end of the school to the new facility;

3. Putting a lift in the hallway at the base of the southern stairway                      outside the gymnasium allowing handicapped access tothe stage;

  1. Renovating the entranceway to the downstairs computer room;
  2. Resurfacing the playground surface;
  3. Site work, asbestos removal, incidental costs, and previous expenditures.

The project would use modular space structures. The costs of these structures are only marginally influenced by volatile market conditions, so costs should come back from bid under projections.

Conservative tax impact estimates, using a full value assessment for a $100,000 property, project annual tax increases as follows:

Senior Star $14

 Basic Star  $20

 No Star $28

When completed, the project will satisfy the Civil Rights judgment, provide modern handicapped locker changing rooms, improve supervision of the locker area, and add much needed storage space.

A public information meeting will be held on Thursday night, September 7, 2006, at 7:30 p.m. in the gymnasium.