OSAGE | After two failed school bond referendum votes, members of the Osage School District administration and board of education, went back to the drawing board and are now proposing a major remodel/renovation to its middle school and high school, at an estimated price tag of $13 million.

The original building plans, which were comprehensive for all of the district's buildings, were an estimated cost of $20 million, with $15 million coming from a bond. 

However, unlike failed bond referendum votes in 2016 and 2017, where a 60 percent favorable vote was needed to move forward, this new project is expected to achieve many of the previously proposed ideas, without raising district residents' property taxes.

The cost of the project is projected to be paid for with approximately $4 million in cash and the remaining $9 million coming from SAVE (one-cent sales tax) and PPEL (Physical Plant and Equipment Levy) funds.

"There will be no property tax increase due to this project," said Osage Schools Superintendent Barb Schwamman. "We (the district) are being fiscally responsible with the funds we are using. 

"We are not utilizing all of our SAVE and PPEL money. We are saving a 15-20 percent cushion, which will remain for general maintenance, school buses, computers, equipment, etc."

Schwamman said many changes were needed in the two buildings because, "Much like your own home or farm, things have changed in the past 50 years," she said. "Efficiency of boilers and windows are much greater and safety and security issues have become the top priorities"

Unlike the first project, which included Lincoln Elementary, the district chose to start with the oldest buildings first, Schwamman said. "Lincoln is on hold until we complete the high school and middle school."

In regards to Lincoln Elementary, Schwamman said the new day care being built near the school is not being built with any school funds.

"The school is leasing the land for them to build in the northwest corner of the Lincoln property," Schwamman said. "No school funds or tax money is being used for the project. We are simply leasing them the land, so they have a place to build a much needed new day care."

When looking at the proposed floor plan, several things are not happening as once was proposed. In addition to nothing happening at Lincoln Elementary, the middle school offices will not be moved, no additional middle school restrooms will be added and the gym is a smaller size.

However, areas which will be new include a tornado safe room, which will be used by the middle school and high school bands and choirs, one cafeteria and new kitchen, secure high school and administrative offices, gymnasium, classrooms, windows, boiler, additional safety/security upgrades, along with renovated classroom spaces.

Outside the building, Sawyer Drive will be reopened by the city, as part of a summer paving project. 

It will be a one-way, to the east, which will help alleviate safety issues on Seventh Street. Parking lots will remain the same, however, a few spaces will be used by the new addition.

Construction is expected to begin in April, as weather permits. There are three phases to the overall project, with all the phases expected to be completed by August 2019.

Schwamman said the remodeling of the science rooms and other classrooms will take place over the summer to avoid instructional disruptions in the fall.

She added, the band and choir will be utilizing the Cedar River Complex for practices, the food service department will be using one kitchen and dining area for nine months and entrances will shift to the high school north doors.

For more information about the overall project, contact Superintendent Barb Schwamman at bschwamman@osage.k12.ia.us or 641-732-5381. 

A video, which is a virtual walk through of the new building, can be found at www.osageschools.com, under "Build Our Future."