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Pre-K, bus depot plans may be pared

To avoid delaying the February referendum on Grand Island School District's renovation project, plans for a universal prekindergarten program and centralized bus depot may be scaled back, School Board members were told Wednesday.

Superintendent Robert Christmann told board members that plans to dedicate five classrooms in the Sidway Elementary building to 10 half-day prekindergarten classes would have to be cut back if other aspects of a proposed capital project -- including a redistribution of grades across primary schools -- are to gain board approval by the end of December, in time for the vote.

"Without some additional state aid, I didn't feel I could recommend proceeding to include that [in the project]," Christmann said. "I recommended [that the board] take the funds we have now to cover one prekindergarten classroom, and build it into two classrooms, covering the remainder on our end."

Grand Island receives $113,400 each year from the state Education Department for its universal prekindergarten program, a figure that hasn't changed in four years, Christmann said. And adding another full-time classroom could enroll up to 72 more children, he added.

No action was taken Wednesday, but the board seems to have reached consensus on some aspects of the renovation project. A cost estimate on their work has yet to be made public.

Converting Sidway into a districtwide center for classes from prekindergarten through the 2nd grade, along with district offices, and moving the 3rd through 5th grades into the Huth Road and Kaegebein elementary schools, appeared to raise no serious objections from board members.

Project designers Canon Design last month suggested synchronized bus schedules for the middle and high schools. Canon representatives said Wednesday, however, that a shared transportation garage on Whitehaven Road would likely have to be scrapped if the district wants to get approval by February.

Other aspects of the plan include expanding and renovating classrooms to accommodate computer stations and other technology, moving the district's offices into the oldest section of Sidway Elementary, and expanding the middle and high school buildings to add a common foyer and more room for art, music, and technology classes.

The design, review, and committee planning phases of the capital project were consolidated from the project's start to ensure the public could vote on it by February, allowing proposals to reach contractors before they were committed through 2009.

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