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Colome eyes Tuesday bond election for new school

COLOME -- School district voters will be asked to approve a nearly $5 million bond measure for the Colome Consolidated School District next week, as the district pursues a building project for a new high school.

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COLOME - School district voters will be asked to approve a nearly $5 million bond measure for the Colome Consolidated School District next week, as the district pursues a building project for a new high school.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, and the bond measure is for $4.95 million. Colome Superintendent Ryan Orrock said the vote is the culmination of about 18 months of work deciding which direction was best for the small community in Tripp County to pursue. He said the school board - which approved the bond measure and called for the vote on Dec. 14 in a special meeting - wants the public to be on board with the project. The design essentially will have the new addition connect between the existing elementary school and the high school gym.

"We had some previous plans and we talked about it and collaborated with the designers and our building committee, which had a few members of the public and decided this was the best way to proceed, to have it all connected and ADA-compliant," Orrock said.

The new project, which would be built over a single story and include 22,000 square feet, would include more than a dozen new classrooms, a new secured entryway into the school, a commons area of more than 3,500 square feet that would connect to the school's existing high school gym.

Plans call for the work to be done in two phases, with the first being a classroom addition between the elementary and middle school facility and the school's gymnasium. The second phase would be added by removing the old high school building and building four additional classrooms and a commons and kitchen area. Colome counted 229 students in its school district this year, including 154 students in grades K-8.

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Colome's current high school dates back to 1924, and the school district's buildings are mostly separate, requiring students and teachers to go outside to get from one to another. The current high school has also dealt with heating issues this year, battling an old boiler system. The district has used portable classroom units in the past, as well.

If approved, the timeline would include bidding the project in May, and starting construction on May 20. The first phase of the project could be completed by Dec. 31, 2019, while second phase construction would begin in spring 2020, and be completed in time for the start of the fall 2020 school year.

School leaders ruled out a renovation of the current buildings, primarily because of cost. A renovation of the current buildings was estimated to cost $6.8 million, officials said. In that case, the district would have renovated more than 18,000 square feet, plus built an addition of nearly 16,000 square feet. Another difficult factor is the that the existing high school building was not up to code requirements, which was set to drive up costs, Orrock said.

"We wanted to have a secure building," Orrock said. "We have a door locking system now, but our buildings are not connected. With the weather we've had, that's scary. Our building isn't very handicap-accessible and right now, our primary point of contact, our secretary for the school is on the third floor of the high school, and that's just not very user-friendly."

The run-up to the vote also included community meetings in Colome and in Wood, the small community 50 miles from Colome that the school district merged with in 2010. The district only has a couple of high school students from the Wood area, with some students open-enrolling to White River or Winner. Orrock said the project was a tougher sell in the small Mellette County town but believes it's in the best interest of all of the district's residents.

"In Colome, we've had a lot of people ask, 'Why can't our kids and our staff have something that we can be proud of?'" Orrock said. "We want our grandkids to be coming to school in Colome in a nice facility."

Another factor at play is the capital outlay changes approved by the state Legislature. Starting in 2021, schools can only levy capital outlay projects based on their enrollment. Materials presented to the public projected the bond tax levy at 99 cents per $1,000 in valuation over 25 years.

"With inflation and some of the other factors at play, this is the time that makes sense for us to build," Orrock said.

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Because Colome is holding a bond election, approval will require a 60 percent majority of those who voted. Voting will take place at Skatetown in Colome, and the community halls in Witten and Wood.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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