Last Monday night the Marshall Board of Education met with the school district Facility Committee and the two groups exchanged ideas about possible options to address our school district facility needs.
Although they are not ready to make a final recommendation at this time, the Facility Committee has developed a very general plan for addressing our needs.
Who is the Facility Committee?
The school district Facility Committee consists of around 25 different people who have spent the past nine months evaluating the current facilities in our district, have toured elementary facilities in four other districts, gathered information on the latest educational facility trends and practices, have met with school facility resource people and have slowly and patiently been working toward the development of a specific plan to address our facility needs. The committee members were selected by the Marshall Board of Education.
What ideas were presented by the committee?
At Monday's meeting, the Facility Committee presented the following list of possibilities for board consideration.
1) Extensively renovate Bucker Middle School.
2) Build one now elementary school either for grades K-2 or grades 3-5.
3) Put remaining elementary classes in either two or three of our existing elementary buildings.
4) Provide air conditioning for existing elementary buildings.
5) Air condition the industrial arts building on the high school campus.
6) Add two new science labs at the high school.
7) Move the high school alternative school program into one of the vacated elementary buildings.
8) Move the fifth grade into the elementary setting.
Build K-2 or 3-5 building first?
The debate has been ongoing among Facility Committee members as to whether it would be better to build the lower or the upper elementary building first.
Some committee members argue that the younger students (kindergarten to second grade) should be taken care of first. Others have stated that if we start students out in a new building parents will expect a new building also when their students get ready for the third grade, which might make it a selling point for passage of a future bond issue for a second new building.
Proponents of building the third through fifth grade building first have contended that if we need to keep some of our existing elementary buildings, these relatively small buildings would be better suited for younger, smaller students than for older students who would need a larger gym, a bigger library, a larger cafeteria, etc.
It is pretty commonly agreed on the many of the academic and support areas in our existing elementary schools are too small and not designed for today's educational programs.
It has not been officially decided yet but it appears to be the general consensus and opinion of the committee that our ultimate goal would be to have two newer elementary buildings, one for K-2 and one for 3-5. However, the committee thinks it best to construct one building now and one at a later date as opposed to going for two buildings at this time.
One grade per building vs. multi-grade concept
Another source of debate among committee members has been whether to keep one grade level in each of the existing elementary buildings as we have it now or whether to have as many as three different elementary buildings with multiple grade levels in each building.
Many of the committee members like the idea of students attending the elementary building closest to their home and staying in the same building with the some general group of students and teachers for a period of several years. This concept also promotes the idea of brothers and sisters attending the same building. This plan would eliminate the requirement that students change buildings each year.
Proponents of the one grade per building idea like this concept because it puts all students in each grade level together in the same building, It is also assumes that students from all different socioeconomic levels will be mixed together in one school which many people believe is the way that it should be.
Many of our elementary teachers favor the idea of all students in a grade being in the same building as that provides opportunities for all teachers of a grade level to plan together, as well as probably allowing for more learning resources for each grade level since the materials would not be split between several different buildings.
What about a site for a new school?
At the present time, the Facility Committee is looking at different site options for a new school building. The site was a hot topic in the last bond issue proposal, so the committee is trying to explore any number of possible options.
Before we decide on a final site, the committee will need to decide whether they want to recommend a school complex site with more than one building on the same site in the future, or whether they may want only one building on whatever site is chosen.
This will determine how large the site needs to be as well as where it needs to be located.
Where do we go from here?
Each board member is to provide written comments on the general ideas presented by the facility committee, These comments will be presented to the committee at their next meeting on June 10.
The Facility Committee will review the input and then hopefully come up with a specific and detailed plan for addressing our needs. It is not known at this time how long that it will take for the committee to develop its final recommendation.
Remember that the Board of Education has the final say and they will make the final decision on where to go in terms of addressing our facility needs.
We certainly appreciate all of the hard work and efforts of the Facility Committee, as these folks have dedicated a lot of their time in trying to improve the school facilities for our younsters.