By Conrad Dudderar
After some serious pencil-sharpening, construction of a much-anticipated, bond-funded addition is due to start this fall on the Yukon High School campus.
A planned Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU) “satellite” site will not be part of a new building – at least not yet.
Yukon Public Schools and SWOSU officials have mutually agreed to postpone the inclusion of a dedicated SWOSU space in the future YPS College & Career Center.
YPS Chief Operations Officer Mark Lebsack updated YPS Board of Education members at their July 10th meeting about the impending YHS construction project funded by a 2021 school bond issue.
A ground-breaking ceremony for new YHS facilities is planned Friday, Sept. 1 on the night of the first Yukon home football game and new employee cookout.
“We really feel great how we’re moving forward,” Lebsack said.
“We had to do something to make some adjustments because we want to get this project going. And we found a way to do that.”
Lebsack referred to “hurdles that we’ve come up against” after YPS district administrators met recently with construction manager Manhattan Construction Co. and project architect The Stacy Group.
“They brought the cost to build that facility,” he said. “We all had to gasp because the prices had gone up so substantially.”
A $194 million bond package was approved by YPS voters at a November 2021 election. The bond issue consisted of $189,265,000 in building bonds and $4,995,000 in transportation bonds.
YPS officials have planned to use an estimated $70-$75 million in building bonds to fund construction of a new performing arts center/ college and career center, indoor activity facility and expanded commons area on the YHS campus.
“We were looking at a 30% increase in the cost to build that facility from when the bond was passed in ’21,” Lebsack shared with YPS board members. “Interest rates on the sale of bonds have gone up substantially – and that was a $10-$12 million cost in interest alone.
“Those were huge numbers to overcome.”
With the large hike in construction costs and projected revenue loss due to higher interest payments, the YPS bond construction team had to get creative to move the YHS expansion project forward.
Lebsack detailed cost-saving measures proposed to bring the project within budget.
“In the original plan, there was a section of the building (on the west side) that was a satellite piece that SWOSU was going to occupy,” the new YPS COO said.
“Not building that at this time as well as taking the second story off of that facility – that alone was a savings of nearly $25 million.”
The YHS facility will still be able to eventually accommodate the SWOSU satellite and a second story.
“We want to have the ability to do what we originally planned, in the future, if we see that’s the need,” Lebsack pointed out
The YPS Board of Education reviewed a revised rendering showing other adjustments to the planned YHS performing arts/career center.
The original rendering included “scaffolded seating” to provide a “true lecture hall-feel,” according to Lebsack.
“That has been changed,” he said. “The actual room is the same space, and the actual amount of seating is the same. It’s just not scaffolded up.
“There will be drop ceiling in there and all of that can be added back in the future, if need be.”
The proposed building features large rooms for orchestra, aerospace lab, health occupations, computer science lab, eSports, and media production; along with core and elective classes.
With the existing YHS building full, the school will gain 14 dedicated classrooms with this new construction.
As another cost-saving step, the district’s architects proposed reducing the width of a long hallway.
“If you haven’t met our architects, they’re fantastic,” Lebsack emphasized. “They are true advocates for us as a school district.”
By cutting costs on the performing arts/career center, YPS officials will be able to build the new indoor activity facility as planned.
There is still some question whether there will enough bond funding for the YHS cafeteria expansion, according to YPS CFO Jim Fenrick.
YPS Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth will present updated renderings of both buildings at the August YPS Board meeting.
See story in an upcoming edition of The Yukon Progress about the growing partnership that SWOSU has with the Yukon school district.