Big changes are planned at Conger Elementary School if voters approve Delaware City Schools' "no-new-millage" bond issue on the May 7 ballot.

Because of projected increases in student enrollment, the district hopes to add about 10,000 square feet to the existing 64,624-square-foot building at 10 Channing St.

The new space would accommodate the expected addition of six new classrooms, Superintendent Paul Craft said.

If voters approve the bond issue, it won't increase their property taxes, Craft said. That's possible because the district would transfer payments from older, retiring bonds to the new bond issue, he said.

Craft said the district would wait until each retiring bond is paid off before payments are transferred to the new bond issue, which would raise $36.5 million over its lifetime.

District Treasurer Melissa Swearingen said the bonds being retired are refunding bonds that were issued in 2013 as part of a cost-saving measure to reduce the district's outstanding debt.

"About six new classrooms (at Conger) is what we're thinking," Craft said.

District spokeswoman Jennifer Ruhe said Triad Architects, Columbus, has developed a general plan, but specifics won't be finalized until the bond issue is approved.

The cost of preparing final plans will covered by the bond issue, she said, "so financially, you have to have the bond passed in order to ask an architect to go to that level of detail."

If the issue passes, Schultz Elementary School, 499 Applegate Lane, also will see additional classrooms as well as a kitchen, which it now lacks, said Jason Sherman, the district's director of facilities and transportation. Also possible at Schultz are a larger media center or commons area.

At Conger, Craft said, the existing kitchen and commons area are in good shape to handle expected enrollment growth.

However, Conger will need some roofing repair and mechanical work, Sherman said.

"We'll take a look at some of the mechanical systems for heating and cooling (in the section) of Conger along Channing Street, which was built in the 1960s," he said.

"We would probably go in there and update some HVAC equipment. That's some of the older stuff there," he said.

The section built in the '60s was an addition to the original building, constructed more than 100 years ago but since removed, he said.

The oldest section of the Conger roof needs an upgrade, Sherman said.

By comparison, most of the roof is 20 to 25 years old and "is in pretty good shape," he said.

"A lot of the roof that would need to be replaced at Conger would be shingles" or ethylene propylene diene methylene roofing (known as EPDM), which resembles a "white film plastic covering," Craft said.

"That would be either be resurfaced or removed and replaced."

"Parking is always an issue at Conger," he said, "so we may be looking at some property acquisition over there to ... accommodate playground space, parking, and pickup and dropoff."

Some new playground space would be needed, Craft said, because a classroom addition would shrink the existing playground.

The Conger building and property cover 4.8 acres, Sherman said.

Craft said he believes property acquisition can occur without requiring eminent domain.

Deciding how that would happen, he said, is "one of the things (the school board does) in executive session. We certainly would love to acquire a bit more property. There are several ways to do that. We'll work through that process. We don't want to start that process until we know we have the funds."

The Schultz addition also would take a bite out of its existing playground space, Sherman said, but the Schultz property covers 36.5 acres.

Ruhe said the Schultz playground can be expanded to the south to keep it the same size.

Craft said the bond issue would allow improvements of some type at all district school buildings that "will set us up for the growth we're experiencing now and over the course of the next five to 10 years."

He said district enrollment has grown by about 100 students annually for the last 20 years, increasing from 3,714 students in 1990 to 4,954 in 2010.

Enrollment now exceeds 5,800 students and is expected to increase to 6,444 by 2025, he said.

If voters approve the issue, Craft said, the first of the new bonds could be issued by July. Detailed planning would continue through October.

Triad Architects would be expected to seek bids and select contractors by December.

Construction is set to begin in March 2020.

Which projects will be started first is yet to be determined, Sherman said.

The bond issue will be listed on the ballot at 2.37 mills, even though property taxes won't increase, Craft said.

District residents also will see a 3-mill permanent-improvements levy on the May ballot.

The levy now is collected at 2.48 mills, which Swearingen said costs homeowners $76 annually for each $100,000 of appraised property value.

The district has said the levy would not raise taxes.

Funds generated by permanent-improvements levies are used for long-term expenses such as buses, computers and textbooks.

editorial@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNews