February 12, 2010

Friend seeks new $415,000 bond

Ellis Goodwin

Voters in the Friend School District will visit polls on March 2 to decide if they will continue paying school bond taxes to facilitate a new library, gym entrance and all-purpose facility.

Friend school is growing, and more space is needed for learning, presentations and activities, Friend Supt. Alton Rowlands said.

Rowlands said the new $415,000 bond will not increase taxes in any way; it is simply a continuation of current taxes.

He said the time is right to extend the tax for numerous reasons.

"We've got bonds going off (the books) – and before these bonds come on, those will go off," he said. "Interest rates are low right now, and it could be a good time to do it."

Low interest rates is only one of many upsides to the projects, he said. Rowlands said the current library is desperately small.

If the bond passes Friend school will convert its unusable 3,600-square-foot auditorium into a new library and computer lab.

Friend's current library is less than one-third the size of the proposed facility, and librarian Susan Vitello said it can get congested and noisy, two things you don't want in a library.

"It can get very crowded," she said.

In preparation for the estimated cost of more than $100,000 to convert the library, school officials began stripping the auditorium of its interior last year. The auditorium, which was built in 2000, is no longer big enough to accommodate events such as plays and graduation.

The gymnasium is barely large enough, so Rowlands is proposing an all-purpose facility that will be an addition built onto the east side of the Upper Education Building. He said the facility will even provide space for children to have recess and activities on bad weather days. The all-purpose facility is projected to be the most expensive project, but it could be scaled back if necessary.

"If we have to short change any of it, it'll be to the all-purpose facility," Rowlands said. "Until the bids come in, we just don't know."

There are also plans to add a covered entrance to the front of the Dale Smith Gymnasium. The current entry point is small and unclearly marked. Rowlands said he expects the entry way to cost nearly $30,000.

Rowlands said he is carrying over the ideas for the bond that were set forth by his friend, colleague, and former Friend Supt. Dale Smith. Smith passed away in March of 2009, and Rowlands took his place. He immediately picked up where Smith left off.

"This [bond] will help us finish up what he helped start," Rowlands said.

A public meeting will be held to discuss the projects, but no date has been set.