Classes in the Manhattan-Ogden school district started Wednesday morning, and the 2019-20 school year also marks the beginning of four years of construction on $129.5 million in bonded school projects.

While many of the projects are still in preliminary design stages, one project — a parking lot addition at Amanda Arnold Elementary — is 90% complete, said Trisha Brooke-Fruendt, the district owners’ representative through the bond process.

After that, only three other projects will be bid out by the end of 2019, if the design and approval processes go smoothly. A project to renovate and build onto the Keith Noll Maintenance Center will likely be bid out in September.

Brooke-Fruendt said that the maintenance center project is the only project that has conceptually changed since voters approved the $129.5 million in bond projects last November. Using the project’s $960,000 in bonded funds and an additional $480,000 in capital outlay funds, the project will improve the building’s crumbling foundation, Brooke-Fruendt said, with construction set to start in November.

“I thought, why are we putting lipstick on a pig?” Brooke-Fruendt said of the changed plans. “Why can’t we be more financially responsible to the taxpayers, and use some capital outlay funding and raze the two buildings and build one new energy-efficient building for the maintenance folks that also will include a tornado shelter?”

During construction, the district’s maintenance staff will work out of job trailers to be delivered in early September.

Next, the district will complete design on and bid out the College Hill Early Learning Center in September, with construction starting in the last half of October. That project will add a storm shelter, expand the parking area, make the playground more age-appropriate, bring the center’s classrooms to 11 total and consolidate the district’s early learning offices onto one campus. The center would open in November 2020.

The district will also bid out the project for a new elementary school in Blue Township in October, with construction scheduled to start in December. That project would build a 475-student elementary school in Pottawatomie County, with an expected opening in August 2021.

Several other projects are already in the design phase but won’t start construction until next year. Building additions to Eisenhower and Anthony middle schools will be bid out in early 2020, with construction starting in May.

The middle school projects will add wings to each building to accommodate the district’s move of sixth graders to the schools. The projects will also add storm-rated multipurpose rooms to each building, in addition to general renovations.

Expected completion is August 2021.

Projects at Lee and Marlatt elementary schools will start construction in April. The projects will focus on renovations and modernization of the schools’ infrastructure, as well as a new dedicated kindergarten playground at Lee. Those projects wrap up in fall 2020.

The district’s projects at other schools will be staggered throughout the rest of the four-year construction process, Brooke-Fruendt said.

“We don’t want to have 10 or 12 projects going on in one summer, because that’s a lot of work, and it’s also a lot of responsibility on the district, because we’d have to find a lot of new homes for projects,” Brooke-Fruendt said. “Typically, in the summers, we have several types of programs, be they childcare, feeding, Boys and Girls Club, that we have to figure out how to maneuver. This summer was fairly easy, as we only had one project, but next summer will be a little more difficult.”

Brooke-Fruendt, who also worked on Manhattan-Ogden’s 2008 bond issue as well as bond issues at the Lawrence school district, said although this bond campaign’s dollar amount is higher, most of the additions at the elementary schools are smaller scale.

“This time it’s a little different, because most of the elementaries are getting a multi-purpose room to serve as their storm shelters, and the middle schools are getting additions, with some renovations as well,” Brooke-Fruendt said. “The high school is getting a huge addition for classrooms and their gym and storm shelter.”

The project schedule is subject to change, she said, especially as the district’s new principals get settled into their buildings.

“I think this is a great opportunity,” Brooke-Fruendt said.

“Parents and taxpayers can feel more comfortable that each site is going to have a true storm shelter.

“Obviously, our storm seasons are getting longer and more intense, so for folks to know their kids can go to a safe place in one spot, it’s a huge benefit for the district and city as well. I think they can rest assured that their taxpayer dollars are being spent really wisely.”

Education reporter for the Manhattan Mercury. Follow me on Twitter at @byRafaelGarcia.