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Monett School Board looks closer at new plans for elementary school

Monday, October 26, 2009

More direction for plans to improve the Monett Elementary School campus emerged from talks with architects at the R-1 Board of Education monthly meeting in October.

The school board meeting was held at the elementary school to give board members an on-site opportunity to look at the campus layout if specific questions arose. Board members conducted a campus walk-through two weeks ago with an eye on the construction project.

Pam Haldeman and Jim Stufflebeam, from Sapp Design Associates, brought different designs for consideration and talked with board members for an hour. The board provided direction for the architects to detail some of their ideas and return next month with more developments.

Superintendent Dr. John Jungmann said the plan has focused on both security and efficiency. Enclosing the campus to limit entrance points has been a primary goal. In addition, a more efficient educational facility would come from reducing time lost moving groups of children to different locations and putting on jackets to go outdoors.

"The biggest benefit will come from getting things closer together," Jungmann said.

According to the superintendent, board members are now leaning toward moving the school's main entrance from the circle drive on the east side of the campus to the gym entrance on the north side, off Learning Lane, presently used as the bus entrance.

Under this plan, Jungmann said the school office would be relocated to a new structure at the north entrance. The option of moving the office, he said, looked much less expensive than trying to relocate other heavily used parts of the campus to the east side.

In addition, board members are looking at putting the planned storm shelter in the hillside near the north playground. A connecting wing would attach the storm shelter to the cafeteria building and the new office.

Much of the plan is still tentative, Jungmann said, especially since word has not yet been received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency about funding for the storm shelter. In the latest ideas, new classroom space would be added with the office and storm shelter construction. The old gym would become a library. Jungmann thought the playground on the north side of the school could stay in place.

Another concern about the elementary campus arises from traffic flow. Moving the office to an entrance area where there is only one way in and out presents questions about congestion. Jungmann said the board is looking at constructing a road around the campus from the current gym to the south side and emerging around the kindergarten building.

"We don't know if [another road] is feasible, but we're looking into it," Jungmann said.

Part of the assignment for the architects was to return with a plan that could be built in phases. The amount of debt the district could take on if patrons approve a no-tax-increase bond issue in April would not be enough to make all the changes envisioned.

"The bottom line is we can't get all we want at once, and we don't want to go to the voters to ask for what would be a hardship to them," Jungmann said.

The superintendent said he did not feel this was the time to ask patrons for a tax increase. When the district could go back and ask voters to support another no-tax-increase bond issue would depend on how quickly assessed valuation grows in the district.

If valuations continued to grow at the same pace as in recent years, Jungmann thought another vote could be possible in five more years. If the district grows more quickly, current bonds may be paid down faster, enabling another vote in around three years.

"Building costs are lower now, and interest free money is available," said Jungmann. "That's the big puzzle. We're trying to fit all the pieces together. We want a plan that will serve students for years to come."

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