Monett school enrollment shows rebound since opening

Friday, August 30, 2013

Initial concerns about enrollment in the Monett R-1 School District following unexpectedly low numbers on opening day have diminished as classes got into session. Superintendent Brad Hanson updated school board members at the board's August meeting.

"I was initially concerned when the first day numbers appeared to be down by 30 to 40 students," Hanson said. "They quickly went up. One week later, they were equal to last year. By the board meeting, a week and two days later, we were up 15 from the starting point last year.

"Our numbers are where we thought they would be. We usually grow by 15 to 40 students a year."

Long range planning

Student numbers make a difference in strategic planning. The board planned to have their annual board retreat on Tuesday, Oct. 1 at a home of one of the members. Hanson said they would talk about capital projects for the next five years.

"Last year we set a tentative five-year plan," Hanson said. "Fixing the parking lot between the high school and the Scott Regional Technology Center was one of those issues. Safety is also on the forefront. The two FEMA shelters underway will be a big part of that. Plus other needs have come up."

Scheduled as a summer project to cost around $110,000, the high school parking lot turned into a much bigger undertaking and was not finished until last weekend, thanks in part to two rainy weeks before the opening of school. As school came into session, Hanson said school administrators did a good job getting students to concentrate their parking. Only a third of the lot was used in that period.

As crews for APAC Missouri continued to dig, they found more soft spots. Rather than just do the west side of the lot, Hanson decided to address bad areas found in the middle of the lot along David Sippy Drive. A final change order for around $50,000 narrowed the amount of the digging. In the end, Hanson said the underlay was improved and the asphalt depth was increased from two to four inches. A layer of Petromat was added to provide a moisture barrier to prevent cracking.

"All told the total cost of repairs came to $228,000," Hanson said. "Even with the additions, we got the final cost under the $260,000 total we were facing. Hopefully it will be done for years to come."

Security systems in place

Security enhancement started last week as installation began on the new video and intercom access system at Monett Middle School. Work on the Monett Intermediate school finished on Aug. 27.

"Once classes are in session, when someone comes to the doors, they will have to buzz in. The office personnel will see and communicate with them and be able to open the door remotely to enter the building. It will be a much more secure environment."

The changes will be particularly strategic at the middle school, where the south building will have the north and east doors controlled by the system. Those doors have remained open through the school day.

The security systems, including Central Park Elementary, should be in operation by the end of next week.

Other work around the district will include a roof project involving application of a new coating on top of Central Park Elementary and the administrative offices to correct leaks. Hanson expected work to start around the beginning of September and continue for four to six weeks.

Three heat pumps also need to be replaced at the high school. That should also start in early September.

Board members planned to have Larry Hart, from the investment banking firm of L.J. Hart and Associates, attend the board retreat to talk about options on additional funding for the FEMA storm shelters.

District funds show growth

The district's financial position appeared strong in finishing the 2012-13 school year. According to the summary compiled for the Secretary of the Board report, approved for submission to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the district increased its reserve funds by year's end.

The board transferred the full 7 percent of the operating fund into the building fund, a shifting of funds allowed by the state only once a year. Even with that move, the fund reserve still grew from 29.6 percent of the budget to 36.9 percent.

"We want to keep it around that level," Hanson said. "It would have been even higher if not for the FEMA projects."

The financial picture looked even brighter due to the report from City Administrator Dennis Pyle. With the declaration of a fund surplus in the city's tax increment financing (TIF) program, the city will be able to pay the school back for the revenue lost in supporting the last widening of Highway 60 earlier than expected. The city will pay the district nearly $126,000 in April, 2014.

While local finances look good, Hanson briefed board members on the looming fight over state funding. The Missouri General Assembly is due to return to session next month in an effort to override Governor Jay Nixon's vetoes. House Bill 253, the effort to reduce state income tax, has the attention of educators. Numbers released by Nixon's office show that if the bill received enough support to top Nixon's veto, the R-1 District could lose between $900,000 and $1.5 million a year in state funds.

"We're getting mixed messages on what the legislature will do," Hanson said. "We believe an override will be damaging to all public education."

Board members passed a resolution in support of the veto. Hanson also shared a letter from the Southwest Missouri Superintendents Association, where other school districts voiced the same reservations.

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