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High school debt retired
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Kimberly Boim

The Dawson County Board of Education now owns one more building Dawson County High School.

After 16 years of making payments, the building has been paid off, two years early.

We are extremely gratified to be able to pay off the bond two years earlier than expected, said School Superintendent Keith Porter.

The school opened Dec. 1, 1997, and later added on a 15-classroom wing, bringing its total square footage to 180,000.

Recent ELOST (Education Local Option Sales Tax) funded payments allowed the board to stop assessing 0.4 mills associated with the high school debt, which was scheduled to run through the 2015 fiscal year, Porter explained.

That saves taxpayers money, he said, and the 0.4 mills will disappear from individual tax bills.

The Board of Education has made it a priority to retire existing debt as quickly as possible, and this is another instance of them being proactive toward that end, said Porter. We are very proud of the DCHS facility in regard to the structure and design.

Construction costs of the building were approximately $9 million, not including interest.

Current enrollment at the school is around 1,000 students. The schools capacity is 1,290, which positions it to absorb new students as the economy improves and more residents move to Dawson County.

We are leveraged well for enrollment increases at the high school as well as throughout the system, said Porter. We have developed facilities plans that stretch many years into the future.

Steve Salmon, a noted educational facilities expert, worked with the board of education to develop enrollment projections that stretched over a 15-year period.

The projections indicated that we would not be in need of a new high school for 10 years or more, said Porter.

The countys middle school campuses have additional instructional space that could be used for a ninth grade academy or other re-configuration to alleviate some of the enrollment stress brought on by growth.

Years down the road, a decision will be necessary regarding whether or not it would be best for the students and community to have two high schools or go the route of designating a ninth grade academy, said Porter. With enrollment growth occurring at a very gradual rate, I dont anticipate a need for an additional school any time in the near future and conversations with stakeholder groups would be very important in making these decisions.

Facilities Director Stacy Gilleland remembered when the school was built.

It was the first new building, from the ground up, that we had built in maybe 50 years, he said.

All schools in the system are paid off with the exception of Hightower Academy. Funding for the academy was part of a $15 million bond which included renovations at Robinson Elementary; two safety vestibules at schools; 21st century technologies in each classroom, and the purchase of school buses. Porter said he expects the $15 million debt to be paid not later than May 2016.