The Hiawatha USD 415 School Board is looking at a long-term plan for facility upgrades.
Another step in this process came at Monday night’s board meeting as the board members heard from Jerry McCall of Educational Consulting Services of Lincoln, Neb., who had been brought into service with the district several months ago for this purpose. McCall gave an in depth presentation about the district’s facilities and told the board members that now is the time to prioritize improvements for beyond the next three years.
He said of the five centers, only the middle school is fairly new, opened in 2000, and is considered adequate for the student population and activities, although he noted that traffic flow could be improved.
Of most priority, he noted, the district should look closely at the elementary school, built in 1951 and currently at 45,000 square feet. He said it’s roughly about 15,000 to 20,000 square feet TOO small for the current enrollment and activities. McCall said that having a gymnasium and a food service area in the same room is definitely not ideal and the district should first look at expansion of the elementary facility.
Other concerns for the district include challenges of the dome buildings at the high school, opened in 1974. He said size-wise, it fits the need, but noted the vo-tech and shop areas are lacking in the 1936 building, which had an addition built in 1970. He said because it is detached from the main high school, that presents safety and security issues.
“It’s had a long and useful life, but in the future it should be within the main campus for safety and security,” he said.
The Special Ed building is also aging — built in 1950 — with many facility issues. McCall said this building would also serve a better function on the main campus.
As far as the district office goes, McCall said the building is a little small — coming in at 5,200 square feet — and should realistically be around 8,000 to 10,000 square feet, based on services offered there.
McCall said that now was the time for the district to start a planning face for the future of the district and its facilities. Currently, the district has a 3-year capital planning project, but he said a long term range would reach further than that to determine priority of improvements, funding and more.
He advised that the school is an active part of the community development and that people move to the town because of important aspects such as schools and recreation.
McCall also advised that consolidation of facilities could improve the district’s bottom line — such as utilizing combined kitchens, libraries, gymnasiums — if the facilities were all within the same campus.
“Many schools have gone toward these centralized buildings to save money,” he said.
The next step is for the board to review the concepts and start planning over the next few months, McCall told them. He said they could take 2-3 years to take any action, then move forward on funding after that.
Superintendent Lonnie Moser agreed and said he would work with the board to come up with a vision and a timeline, along with phases and financial ability to form a master plan in addition to the 3-year capital improvement plan already in place.
In other business:
During public comment time, resident Virgil Hallauer, presented information on curriculum that he wanted the board to consider. He said he was concerned with the district’s textbook selection process and requested that administration oversee the curriculum that is selected by teachers. He wanted to make sure that curriculum was fair and balanced and some — such as history and government curriculum — wasn’t written to sway students toward a party affiliation.
He also advised that some of the new concrete by the bus loading zone was cracked.
It was noted that January was School Board Appreciation Month by Moser, who noted that he and the district appreciated all of the board members and noted they would celebrate with pie during the break prior to Executive Session.
The board members approved a resolution to move elections and the setting of meeting dates to the June meeting, so the new officers will be stepping in at the July meeting.
District Maintenance Director Matt Cluck gave an update on maintenance projects, including the installation of the new bleachers at the middle school. This project was completed over Christmas break and he said that while there were a couple electronic problems, the project went smoothly. Cluck said the bleachers — which offer individual seats with backs — are nice and also have hand rails and ADA compliancy.
He updated the board that the district was in compliance with any findings from the Fire Marshal inspection recently.
Cluck told the board members that he and the maintenance crew worked roughly 14 hours on Sunday for ice removal. He said it took 12,000 pounds of salt to break through the 1 1/2 inches of ice that had accumulated on the parking lots and sidewalks around the school. He said the district is saving money by purchasing salt directly from the city and he is keeping track of what is being used. Cluck noted the district used 27 tons of salt last year.
The board voted to change the name of a health class to Intro to Health Care 9-12 to stay in line with state standards and continue getting funding for this.
There was discussion of funding for the baseball program for 2020. This is the third year for the team and when it was introduced to the district, it was self-funded for the first two years with the exception that the district paid for a third coach due to increased number of players.
Board Clerk Sarah Windmeyer said the cost of the program was higher initially as equipment and uniforms were purchased, but now the yearly cost is around $11,500.
Board members agreed that it was time for the district to absorb the cost, after it has been shown there is a definite interest and there is a substantial number of players out.
Athletic Director Kim Lillie agreed and she said there are a number of athletes playing baseball who are interested in progressing to the college level.
The board approved to pay for the baseball program, beginning with the 2019-20 current season and from this point forward.
In the Superintendent Report, Moser proposed a work session in February and asked the board members to check their calendars.
He noted that Martin Luther King Jr. Day needed added to the calendar as a paid holiday for staff.
Moser discussed looking at the districts for election of board positions and said he wanted to visit more on that soon.
He also asked the board to consider whether monthly meetings wanted to be held on Mondays still, or move to another night such as Wednesdays. He noted that by having the monthly board meeting on Mondays, they conflicted with some school activities.
He reminded board members that Red Hawk Talk was from 9-11 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 23 at Lottie’s Restaurant.
Moser wanted to recognize Scottie Twombly Hanf, second grade teacher, for receiving the Horizon Award.
John Wright gave an update on Special Ed, noting that Director Becky Shamburg informed the board at the last meeting that the state may be able to provide more funding for Special Education. He said the director review went well and the board is looking at bringing in contractors for some repairs on the Special Ed building, as it seems to need continued repairs on several things. He said this would alleviate Cluck and his maintenance crew from needing to take care of the repairs all the time.
The board approved the Consent agenda, which included minutes, finances, treasurer’s report, contributions, activity funds and several trip requests.