Marshall, for the third time, is asking voters to approve a bond issue for the construction of a new elementary facility. The April 2003 proposal, which asks for $11.9 million, would build one elementary building for third through fifth graders and renovate Bueker Middle School and the district's three older elementary buildings.
Bueker's needs ranked
A sizable portion of Monday's two-hour meeting was spent ranking the needs of Bueker Middle School. A list of about 30 items had been compiled by the district, but it is doubtful everything on the list can be accomplished within the confines of the project's budget.
"We're not going to know how much renovating we can do until the bids come in," said Marshall Superintendent of Schools Joe Aull.
Aull's recommendation was to rank Bueker's needs and present the list to voters. The district would then be able to explain that its intention is to complete as many items on the list as possible.
BMS Principal Nina Boling said she had already taken some steps to prioritize the projects, moving to the top the things she felt were most important.
"I tried to rank order what would keep us safe and make our building strong," she said.
Among the items listed as the most important were installation of a new heating and air conditioning system along with upgrades in the plumbing and electrical systems. Also high on the list were tuckpointing, repairing the exterior steps and replacing worn interior stair treads with less expensive anti-slip strips.
Building design discussed
Don Garst, Marshall's director of elementary education, shared information on the new building's design with the committee. He said when the architects were called in to design the building, they spoke with all the district's elementary teachers. It was important to the staff that they remain together, and so the design included hallway wings for each grade.
Also taken into account was the possibility of future expansion. The design allows for additional classrooms to be easily added to the end of each wing, a feature not present in the existing schools.
"That's why we have these mobile trailers all around the place," Garst said. "There's no room to expand."
Sharon Mills, a member of the Facility Committee, said that she needed information, and preferably empirical data, to show that keeping grade levels separate from each other - instead of multiple grade levels sharing one building as in neighborhood schools - is a sound policy. She said some members of the community are against such an alignment, preferring to have all elementary grades together in a building.
Other issues broached
During the discussion of the bond issue in general, a number of issues were broached by various members of the group. Among these were voter trust, the emphasis of the campaign and who should be involved in promotion efforts.
Mills said voter trust is one of her top concerns and a lack of trust had been a deciding factor in the defeat of the previous two bond issues. She pointed out that since the last bond issue the district now has a new slate of Board of Education members and there have also been changes in top administrative positions. While these have worked to restore trust, the committee promoting the issue must be very careful in its actions, Mills said.
"It can be lost in a second," she said.
There were those on the committee who feel it is important to have teachers go with committee members when the time comes to go into the community and educate people about the issue.
"They are the ones in the trenches," said Debra Fisher, a Facility Committee member.
Aull pointed out that teachers can speak to a number of issues, but they could be seen as biased by some people. He said it was important the members of the committee not associated with the school also show their support publicly.
"If you are willing to take the ball and really run with it, I think it would really be the most effective," he said.
It was also suggested that any campaign focus itself on students and their needs. Mills suggested that a single-minded approach would not be best, however, because of the way people think. She noted that right-brained and left-brained people look at issues differently and any campaign should be two-pronged to reach both types of people.
Mills said it can also be dangerous for the group to take too negative an approach.
"I don't think that's the focus we want," she said. "That we should make our voters and ourselves be ashamed."
After all, she reasoned, if voters think things are so bad in the schools they will wonder why something wasn't done before.
With election day just a little more than two months away, a number of tasks remain to be done. In an effort to get things moving, several subcommittees of the group were formed. One group will work to develop a theme for the '03 campaign and another was given the job of getting on the March agendas of local civic groups.
A third group will work on fund raising to cover the costs of advertising for the bond issue. Aull pointed out that the district cannot spend money to promote the issue, so the committee will have to appoint a treasurer and raise money on its own.