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BOARD UNABLE TO AGREE ON IMPROVEMENT PROJECT

One week before the Sweet Home School Board is scheduled to vote on a potential Middle School renovation project, the board found itself unable to agree on the project's scope or to establish a firm price tag.

Preliminary estimates of the proposed project have been set at about $19.8 million, with $16 million set aside for the Middle School and about $1.6 million for other district buildings. The project includes the addition of new classrooms, a new cafeteria, parking facilities and the replacement of boilers, ceilings, light fixtures, doors and floors.

However, Middle School staff, pupils and community members also are urging the board to enlarge the school's gymnasium and auditorium or add a fitness room. Those additions could push the cost of the project to $24 million, according to Superintendent Geoffrey Hicks.

At the board's work session Tuesday, School Board President Dirk D. Rabenold asked the board to select two of five project models to discuss at the board's meeting next week.

However, the board was reluctant and ended the work session without drafting a resolution.

The board will attempt to set a resolution and vote on it Tuesday. The meeting gets under way at 7 p.m.

Board Vice President Michael Morrow urged the board to be cautious about going into an ambitious improvement project because of the uncertain condition of state funding.

"I think another option is to hold off on this project for now," Morrow said. "I would like to see a new auditorium and a new gym. But if you're going to do it, do it right the first time."

Superintendent Geoffrey Hicks said there are some improvements that must be made immediately.

"I think it's safe to say that we're going to have to address some things regardless within the next four or five years," Hicks said.

The middle school renovation project has been under discussion since 2001. If the board approves a project Tuesday, the project would face a referendum in January. Construction could begin in April 2006.

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