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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

R-1 district unveils school renovation plans

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Architect's renderings of what Monett Elementary School will look like if voters approve a $4.5 million no-tax-increase bond issue in April. [Drawings from Sapp Design Associates]
The campaign to renovate Monett Elementary School kicked off Monday evening with a rally in the campus cafeteria. Around 50 people gathered to hear about ways that passage of a $4.5 million bond issue will help transform the school.

Superintendent Dr. John Jungmann said it was time to update the Monett Elementary School campus.

"In it's time and place, it had its place," Jungmann said. "Intruder drills are a reality now. It happens at schools like ours."

Monett Elementary School was constructed int he mid-1960s and now has nine buildings and no interior hallways. The campus has 50 exterior doors. Jungmann said every day classes make trips to gym, music, art, physical education, lunch or recess. Each trip takes five minutes in good weather and longer if bundling and unbundling is required.

The challenge for educators is to do their job with greater safety and more efficiently, Jungmann said. The number of doors on the campus alone make a lockdown difficult in an emergency. Reducing the number would enhance security and save energy.

A study by administrators found replacing the current system with enclosed hallways could save 18 minutes a day, or 50 hours a year per student. In addition, Jungmann said the current campus has other deficiencies, such as a library/media center that is too small to meet state standards for a school the size of Monett Elementary.

The plan, devised by architects from Sapp Design Associates, could be done in two phases. The first, Jungmann said, would connect the north wing of classrooms, the cafeteria and gym building and the library/media center into one building. New wings of classrooms would be added and a central connecting commons room with a new office for the entire campus and one main entrance would be consttructed. All the doors to the exterior would become exit-only except for the main door.

The second phase would consolidate the south wing of classrooms with the two more recently constructed buildings on the southwest corner of the campus and connect them to the main building. This building would be an early childhood center, Jungmann said. The current office building and kindergarten building next to it would eventually be removed. Finishing the second part could take five to seven years.

The changes would leave the current early childhood classroom at the southeast corner of the campus by itself. Jungmann expected students would be moved into other buildings once the first phase of construction ended.

Each of the building plans offered room for expansion. The district could have 12 to 15 rooms for early childhood through second grade. Once the school grew that big, Jungmann said the district would probably reconsider its strategy of a central school and go back to neighborhood schools.

The proposed plan will cost $7 million to $8 million or perhaps more, depending on construction costs, Jungmann said. The first phase would involve 2,500 square feet of new construction and 50,000 square feet of new space.

The Board of Education chose to approach the project by asking patrons to pass a $4.5 million bond issue on April 6. The bond will be a no tax increase proposal. Another $1.5 million to $2.5 million could be secured through a lease purchase, "like a home loan," Jungmann said. Money for the lease purchase would come from paying off the current lease purchase on the high school, which will be finished in the next few years. The board would also use another $1.4 million savings in the capital projects fund for the next construction project.

Action now would position the district to qualify for bond money under the federal stimulus plan, representing significant savings in interest. Construction is also available at very affordable rates.

A major part of the project would be building a new gymnasium as a community storm shelter with grant money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Architect Jim Stufflebeam said securing the funds were "pretty certain." The delay in getting funds, Jungmann said, is that FEMA has presently run out of money and will not award any more grants until Congress provides more money. In a year-long timetable for construction, the district could start the project and work in the gym later if the funding arrived by mid-summer.

With voter approval, the board would be able to leverage $4.5 million in bonds into an $8 million project. Jungmann said the previous administration had done the same thing, turning $11,860,000 in bonds into $21 million in upgrades, including the Southwest Area Career Center and Intermediate School work.

The kinds of security issues facing the district these days are more than speculation, said Principal Susie Gasser. Three to five times a year administrators are faced with a concern over a non-custodial parent trying to pick up a child from the school.

"For us, it's a huge burden when an issue is going on," Gasser said, "when the campus is so easily accessed from so many points. It's an issue that's growing."

Another safety feature built into the plant would move the playground to the northeast corner of the campus, behind a locked fence.

The purpose of the meeting was to request support from patrons and organize the voting effort. Jungmann said it would take at least 1,000 "yes" votes to pass the proposal. He asked those present to consider signing up to find 10 voters who would support the initiative, then call those voters on election day and make sure they got to the polls.

Another signup sheet was distributed, asking for volunteers to serve on advertising, public speaking or "get out the vote" committees.

Rebecca Merriman, chairperson of Citizens United for Better Schools (CUBS), said 13 people were already on the task force to pass Proposition CUBS and more volunteers would be sought in the coming weeks.

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