The current Marshall school board seems to have a strong consensus. Every candidate in recent years has agreed in principle if not on the details. School administrators rarely pass up an opportunity to make the point:
Marshall needs new schools.
It's almost a mantra for school officials and board members.
During a candidates forum prior to the April 2006 election, Larry Godsey got the biggest applause of the evening when he said, "We were excited about a new Wal-Mart and about a new golf course, but we didn't get excited about a new school."
Godsey, who is running for re-election this year, was expressing frustration with voters for shooting down three bond issues within several years, the most recent in April 2003.
The subject came up again Wednesday night during the school board's budget work session.
Board member Teri Wright posed the question after Superintendent Craig Noah finished giving an update on federal economic stimulus money the district will receive.
"Should we look at merging elementary campuses?" she said.
Noah was quick and unequivocal in his response.
"We need to have an elementary campus," he said, meaning a consolidated facility to bring elementary classes to one spot.
He was less certain about whether the time is right to pursue the project given the deepening economic recession.
Noah listed the reasons a new elementary facility is needed:
--Age. Eastwood and Benton elementary schools were built in the early 1920s. The newer schools, Southeast and Northwest, are each about a half-century old.
--Size. The elementary schools have been added to and have mobile units to expand capacity but each is chronically crowded.
--Maintenance. Noah lauded district maintenance workers for the job they do keeping the old schools going, but he noted that there are limits to what they can do and building infrastructure -- plumbing, heating, wiring -- remain cranky and expensive to operate.
Noah said the teachers and students do a great job learning in what he considers poor conditions.
"We do a great job with what we have," he said. "But it's not a good learning environment."
The same applies to Bueker Middle School, which was built about the same time as Eastwood and Benton, he said.
But he suggested the focus should first be on elementary schools, which are less expensive to build and would yield greater cost savings in the long run.
"We could save a tremendous amount of money by building an elementary campus," he said.
Godsey said the board was with him on the matter.
"You're preaching to the choir," he said. "We all want that. It's just convincing the public."
Noah said he hoped to start planning for the future of district facilities this summer.
There is some hope of short-term help for facilities.
Although details are still sketchy, Noah said federal economic stimulus money might help with things like buildings and buses. He said that money shouldn't be used for recurring costs, but it might help the district make much-needed improvements to facilities.
He told the board he expects to know more by July 1 about what the district will receive and how the money can be used.
In addition to Godsey and Wright, board members Cindy Brandt, Mark Gooden, Kathy Green, Sherrie Stouffer and President Anita Wright were present.
The board met in closed session prior to the budget work session to discuss personnel and legal issues.
The next regular meeting of the board is set for 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 24.
The later-than-usual starting time will allow board members to attend the annual Academic Excellence Banquet being held the same evening.
Public forum set to discuss school facilities:
Suggestions offered on school facilities:
Facility Committee works to further define possible school bond issue:
Presentation made to school board:
School bond plan to be discussed at special meeting:
Committee reviews pro-school bond efforts:
School bond issue rejected for third time:
Marshall school board candidates discuss issues: