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Who decided that USD 294 needed a facilities upgrade?

People who care about Decatur County. A steering committee of property owners, business leaders, educators and parents studied the issues in depth for more than a half a year and made their recommendation to the school board. The committee reviewed a dozen different options, including remodeling both schools, building an all-new facility, remodeling one school and building all new for the other, etc. Options were rejected if they did not meet needs, were too expensive, were impractical, and/or were disruptive to learning.

What did
they find?

  • The population of Decatur County is growing in two key demographics that could increase school enrollment – the under 5 age group and the 20-24 age group.

  • School enrollment has increased every year for the past eight years, despite having small graduating classes. That’s because enrollment in K-6 is at its highest point in more than 20 years and has shown year-over-year increases. Projections for the next 12 years show that enrollment will remain steady – and even slightly increase.

  • Many USD 294 classrooms present barriers for student success, including poor temperature regulation, inadequate lighting and lack of space for group learning. Classrooms are undersized and lack sufficient infrastructure for today’s technology. These factors limit learning opportunities and create distractions for students and staff.

  • The buildings are out of compliance with code. The infrastructure, including the HVAC, electrical and other systems, requires substantial work just to meet current building codes.

  • Both facilities have considerable accessibility issues.

  • The condition of the current school buildings reflects poorly on the community and complicates the effort to attract new teachers, residents and businesses.

What would a one-campus solution look like?

USD 294 currently has two campuses: one for DCJ/SHS and one for Oberlin Elementary School. To save money both on annual operating costs and on upfront construction and renovation costs, the Board of Education proposed a one-campus solution to the community in August of 2023.


One approach to a PK-12 campus model would be to add new high school wing  to the south side of the existing DCJ/SHS building, near the existing parking lot. The north side of the existing high school would be remodeled to become the new elementary school. Systems throughout the schools would be updated and brought up to code. Where needed, the building would get a heavy remodel affecting layout and all finishes; areas that are in good shape would get a lighter remodel, like new LED lighting and fire sprinklers. The high school and elementary would have separate, secure entrances but take advantage of a shared kitchen, media center and cafeteria/commons.

What would a two-campus solution look like?

USD 294 currently has two campuses: one for DCH/SHS and one for Oberlin Elementary School. In a two-campus solution, we would make updates to both existing schools: ADA accessibility, secure entrances, new systems like HVAC, plumbing, electrical and update some finishes.

The district and facility assessment, available here, contains a comprehensive listing of issues and concerns that would need to be fixed at OES. Just a few of these include:

  • Wood interior walls and wood roof trusses complicate remodeling and pose a combustion threat. The Elementary School does not have a fire suppression system.

  • The exterior window and curtainwall components of the 1965 addition all need replaced along with all roofing. Despite repeated efforts from roofing and window experts, parts of the school have water leaks that can’t be repaired. In other areas, the windows leak air. The amount of money required to bring the school up to code is cost-prohibitive.

  • The campus is considerably undersized, which has created traffic safety concerns for students. All elementary students must walk across the bus lane/ truck unloading zone to get to the playground. Kindergarteners must walk outside and through this high-traffic area on their way to and from lunch.

  • Overall, the building lacks accessibility. Classroom bathrooms aren’t accessible, and the main bathrooms have only one accessible stall. The height of sinks and drinking fountains are not accessible for individuals using a wheelchair. The wheelchair lift does not meet current ADA requirements, and the gym and stage are not accessible.

  • Bats live in the ceiling of one classroom. Rehoming efforts have failed and the bats return.

What will be the impact on my taxes?

A mill levy is the tax rate that is applied to the assessed value of a property. Our current mill levy is $44.14 per $1,000 of assessed value. 


The median home value in Decatur County is $66,100. That means that half of the homes are valued at less than $66,100 and half are valued more than that amount. The assessed value of the median home in Decatur County is 11.5% of $66,100, or $7,648. The assessed value is the number you would put in the estimated property tax calculator.

If you have your Revenue Neutral Rate report, it will show you the assessed value of your property. It's the number on the far right in the column Current Year Assessed.  On the example below, the home has an appraised value of $109,560. The assessed property value of this residence is $13,034 (circled below in green). The $13,034 is the number you would enter in the estimated property tax calculator. 

If you don't have your Revenue Neutral Rate Report, you can calculate your assessed value from your appraised value using the following guides: 

*For Residential Property, assessed valuation is equal to 11.5% of the appraised (market) value

*For Commercial Property, assessed valuation is equal to 25% of the appraised (market) value

*For Ag Land, assessed valuation is equal to 30% of the use value

What has been done so far?

The board of education began discussing the need for a restroom/locker room remodel March of 2021 but acknowledged greater needs within the facilities. They began the facility planning process in early 2022 and established a steering committee made up of district leaders, staff, and community representatives.


The architect GMCN conducted a District & Facilities Assessment of both the Oberlin Elementary School building and Decatur County High School building. GMCN also surveyed USD 294 Faculty & Staff on the building issues including the facility condition and the educational environment.

As this work was happening, the district held tours of the facilities for community members so they could see the schools first-hand. GMCN released their facility assessment report in December of 2022.

The steering committee followed the process mandated by the state of Kansas to hire BD Construction as Construction Manager. Interested construction firms submitted two separate proposals and went through an interview process. 

The steering committee met a total of six times with the architect and construction manager. They discussed the timeline for a bond election, set guiding principles, reviewed mill levy comparisons from similarly-sized schools and reviewed the tax implications of various sizes of bonds. GMCN provided more than a dozen concepts to solve the facility needs, and the construction manager provided cost estimates to help the committee make an informed decision. The committee recommended what they selected as the most economical and complete facility option. 

This option was taken to the voters on August 29, 2023 with an election for a $29.15 million bond. Although that bond vote failed, many community members expressed support for the schools and the urgent facility needs did not go away.


The Board of Education has hired the Docking Institute out of Fort Hayes State University to conduct an independent survey to understand how best to structure a facility improvement project.  

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