Work on the new addition at the Southwest Area Career Center has started. Earthmoving equipment is now in place working on site preparation. Superintendent Dr. John Jungmann reported crews for Sides Construction will spend the next few weeks leveling dirt for pipes and setting the pad for the building.
Board members approved the district improvement list which makes up the summer projects. Two of the bigger projects will be renovating the bathrooms at Central Park Elementary, which have changed very little since the building was erected, and reflooring the lower gym in the E.E. Camp Gymnasium, now a full-time use gym for the intermediate school.
A sports floor will be installed over the existing concrete floor. This hard plastic surface sets together in sections, Jungmann said. Although the new floor is planned to be put in place permanently, the floor could be taken up in part of in full in case repairs are needed. Jungmann saw one in Galena, Kansas, removed when workers had to address a ceiling leak.
A similar floor has been used on The Courts sports facility in Springfield. The new floor will cost half of a wood or rubber floor, the superintendent added.
New carpet will be installed in the Central Park library. At the middle school, Jungmann said the entire lighting system at the South Building will be replaced. The system has been in place since the building went up in the early 1970s and will be upgraded with energy efficient modern lighting. The floor will be retiled as well, taking out the rest of the original tile.
The improvements are the first of three sets of projects the board hopes to do in the next few years.
While facility updates are covered by the current budget, the district's finances remain somewhat unclear. Jungmann reported the State Legislature has not yet decided how most of the federal stimulus money will be spent.
Legislators appear to be leaning toward using the money to fund the next phase of boosting the Foundation Formula, instead of cutting funding for the current phase, as had been discussed last fall. Moving forward with the plan to equalize school funding will bring an additional $400,000 to the district.
"This is great news," Jungmann said. "We don't know what will happen, but we think this is a positive development."
Jungmann gave a PowerPoints presentation to the board on how the stimulus plan is taking shape. There will be an infusion of money into the federal Title I program and special education funds. The district will have 27 months to spend the money, and can stretch spending over two school years.
"We will use as much of the money as we can for technology and upgrades, rather than on staffing," Jungmann said.
The board reviewed a building proposal from Sapp Design Associates for Monett Elementary and decided to let the architects work further on their remodeling design up enclosing and upgrading the campus. The move will give the architects several more months to explore options. Jungmann said the board will study the plan again at its summer retreat. At that time, the financial picture for the district, in light of state funding and the federal stimulus package, will be clearer.
Plans for a transition house for the special education program were put on hold. "We were intrigued by the opportunity," Jungmann said, "but we felt that if the house was in place, we would need to increase staff. We can't afford to do that now. We will investigate opportunities to service those students in a different way."
In continuing cost cutting efforts, Jungmann reports an analysis of spending for the adult education department at the Career Center had started. While the district supports the program and considers it important, the superintendent said, "We must focus on K-12 (kindergarten through high school) programs when times get tighter."
Focusing on finances also led the board to raise tuition rates for the Career Center much more than the usual $50 a year. A $200 increase was approved, putting tuition from $1,695 to $1,895 per student for the coming year.
Jungmann explained state and federal funding for career and technical education has been flat for the past two years, not covering personnel costs. Information on costs were shared with the sending schools, which agreed to the increase both this year and next. In two years, the board will take another look at the financial picture.
On policy matters, Jungmann reported the Barry County Health Department had spoken to him about promoting good health. The district's policy on no smoking inside facilities covers gymnasiums and the football stadium, but does not address parking lots and other public places. Some districts have passed policies making all school property tobacco free.
"The board agreed with the premise," Jungmann said, "but they were unsure if enforcement is possible, or who would enforce the policy." The board took no action, agreeing to look at the idea for another month.
Changes and updates to student handbooks were submitted for approval in April. High school principal David Steward has put together a committee of parents, faculty, and board members to review the citizenship standard for participation in extra-curricular activities.
Steward said the standard had not been intensely reviewed for close to 10 years. He and the committee would make a recommendation at the regular meeting on April 23.
A special meeting to reorganize the board following the April 7 election has been scheduled for noon on April 15 at the superintendent's office. This is the first time a reorganizational session has been set in the middle of the day.
A surplus property list was approved for bids. Jungmann said equipment from the Career Center and a dog house built by the construction technology class at SWACC are up for sale.
Special services director Pam Dorton presented the board with an updated version of the district guide for English language learners. She outlined how English language learners are identified, how their progress is monitored and how teachers make sure students receive the help they need.
Dorton also explained how students advance out of the program and what assistance they receive later. Board members approved the updated program guide.