Gretna’s growing up, and there’s proof on the Nov. 3 ballot.
Voters face a decision that small but growing communities inevitably do: Is it time to build a second high school?
Residents of the Gretna Public Schools will vote on a $258 million bond referendum that would build and equip a second high school, a middle school and an elementary school.
The bond issue, the district’s biggest ever by far, will also pay to build an indoor competition pool for school and community use, as well as improvements across the district.
The step from one high school to two would be a huge leap for the district, accommodating enrollment growth, creating new opportunities for students and no doubt stoking a new crosstown rivalry.
The new high school carries a hefty price tag, but one that supporters say is justified.
The cost is estimated at $139.5 million.
Even supporters say the cost is an eye-opener.
“I’ll be the first to say when I first saw it, I was like ‘That was bigger than I expected,’ ” said Kevin Svec, a member of the Gretna KIDS committee that’s advocating passage.
The committee is made up of local residents and business owners.
The high school would open in fall 2023. The new elementary school, the district’s eighth, would open in fall 2024, and the district’s third middle school in fall 2025.
Through a previous bond issue, the district purchased land southwest of 180th Street and Cornhusker Road for the second high school. It would sit on a campus with the existing Aspen Creek Middle School and Aspen Creek Elementary School.
She said the bond issue is designed to include everything that would go into the school itself, including furniture and vocational tech equipment, and equipping the drama department and the music department.
“Basically the number that you see there is turnkey, so that’s everything that goes into the school except for the staff,” she said.
“It’s a lot of money,” she said. “But looking at the numbers, we feel that the time is now, because if we wait even another six months or a year, you’re looking at a significant cost of inflation in construction costs.”
Even if the referendum passes, the existing high school will be over capacity by the time the new one opens, she said.
Enrollment at the existing high school is projected to reach 1,900 in the 2022-23 school year, 300 over capacity, she said.
“We’re already going to be busting at the seams the way it is,” she said.
Svec said the community has historically supported bond issues, and the schools are a reason people move to the community.
“It is a whole different level when you take a school district and separate it into two high schools, but you don’t have a choice, with the growth that’s here and the growth that’s expected to continue,” he said.
Superintendent Rich Beran said the plan is to eventually have two high schools with 1,600 kids apiece.
Gretna High is currently Class A.
He said the two high schools could move into Class B for a time when they are split, but he said that decision depends on other factors and is out of the district’s control.
If approved, the bond issue would increase the district’s bond levy by 7.3 cents. The owner of a home valued at $200,000 would pay an additional $145.36 a year in property taxes.
The bond issue includes $9.3 million to build a pool at the Gretna Crossing Park. The competition-size pool would be used by swim teams from both high schools, Beran said. The community would also be able to use it, he said.
The pool would have eight lanes, a diving well and seats for spectators, he said.
Right now, swim team members practice and compete at pools in Omaha, he said.
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