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Marshall school bond: School board accepts bond committee design recommendation

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Marshall school board voted Tuesday, Sept. 15, to endorse a school design recommended by the community school bond committee Monday, Sept. 14, and it also addressed which grades should be housed in the new school.

The move was part of the planning process for a proposed elementary school that will be built if voters approve a $20 million bond issue in November.

The board agreed that a one-story, three-grade school would be preferrable to the two-story, four-grade school it had favored earlier as a way to get more students out of old buildings.

(Photo)
A glimpse into what Eastwood school Principal John Angelhow calls "The Harry Potter room" because it is a narrow space under a stairway. The fictional protagonist of J.K. Rowling's book series famously spent his early years housed in a small space under the stairway of his relatives' home. Tight quarters in older elementary schools is one reason the school board is seeking voter permission to borrow money to build a new elementary school.
(Eric Crump/Democrat-News)
The committee listened to the views of 60 people at its meeting Monday and was convinced by the views of elementary teachers and administrators who saw the larger school as having too many people for too little space.

With a bonding capacity of just more than $20 million, the district cannot afford to build a school large enough to comfortably house 800 students, according to the architect who is working on the project.

Board member Anita Wright said she had been excited for a time about the larger school but liked the idea that the three-grade school would give the district the possibility of adding features community members and teachers have already expressed a desire for.

(Photo)
Moisture problems plague several of Marshall's older school buildings, according to district officials. As a result, the schools experience problems like the paint bubbling at Eastwood Elementary School seen above.
(Eric Crump/Democrat-News)
There are, for example, plans to put bleachers in the gymnasium of the three-grade school. The four-grade school would have had none.

There is also interest in the possibility of building a second access road to the new school, which would add to the current estimated cost.

Architect Michael Kautz noted at the bond committee meeting that with the smaller option the district might be able to afford geothermal heat source for the new building, which would not only save the district money for utilities over the long term but could reduce maintenance costs for the roof, too, because there would be less need for mechanical systems to be installed there.

Because the board opted to eliminate an earlier plan to build additions onto Northwest and Benton elementary schools, there may be as much as $4 million available to enhance the new facility, according to Superintendent Craig Noah.

Board member Cindy Brandt noted an advantage to the board long range plans, noting that by keeping the cost of the project lower the district could pay down the bond sooner, making it possible to move to the next phase of the plan, building a new kindergarten through second-grade school.

The board also voted to place grades three through five in the new building, as was originally envisioned.

There was discussion at the bond committee meeting about putting kindergarten or pre-kindergarten through second-grade classes in the new building, but board members cited several factors that informed their decision.

Board member Kathy Green said third grade is when Missouri Assessment Program testing begins and teachers have said there would be advantages to the new building for test preparation.

She also noted that technology needs of upper elementary students begin to increase about third grade.

And she said she suspects students might experience a bit of a let down if they went to a new school for three years and then had to return to an old building.

Larry Godsey noted that no matter which grades end up in the new school, the fifth-graders would no longer be housed in the annex and trailer at Bueker Middle School.

That fact drew a big round of applause when it was brought up at the bond committee meeting Monday.

The board then turned its attention to future needs, including the question of how to arrange grades at the remaining schools, what to do with the one building officials expect to be able to vacate if the new school is built and how to keep moving forward on long range plans.

At each of the bond committee meetings the subject of "neighborhood" schools has come up. District officials caution that the term is somewhat misleading since neighborhood schools as most people remember them are no longer practical.

A better term, according to Assistant Superintendent Brandon Russell, is "multigrade schools," or schools that would house kindergarten through third grade.

Marshall elementary schools currently house a single grade plus kindergarten.

According to speakers at the meetings, many parents oppose the current arrangement. Teachers, however, have spoken in support of it.

The board decided Tuesday that it would rather learn more about the consequences of each option before making a decision and directed Noah to begin studying the feasibility of returning to multigrade schools.

They asked him to report back by March 1.

The board also voted to ask its construction management firm, Titan Construction, to study the condition of Eastwood and Southeast elementary schools so the board will have the information it needs to decide which one to vacate if the bond issue passes.

The decision about what to do with the vacated building may also depend on the Titan's findings. Selling the unneeded building is one option the board has discussed several times, but Green has noted that people in the surrounding neighborhoods may be concerned that if the building doesn't sell quickly it will have a negative effect on their areas.

She said if the decision is made to sell a building the board should develop alternatives in case it doesn't sell.

The board also approved a motion to establish a permanent long range facilities planning committee to continue after the bond issue vote.

In addition to Brandt, Godsey, Green and Wright, board members Mark Gooden, Sherrie Stouffer and Teri Wright were present. The next board meeting will be Tuesday, Sept. 22.

Contact Eric Crump at marshalleditor@socket.net

Related stories:
2009 Marshall school building bond issue:
www.marshallnews.com/topic/mpsdbond09/


Comments
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Those folks who are opposed to new schools for our children should visit the schools and see for themselves the conditions our children and teachers are contending with. The pictures that accompanied this article are just a small sampling. Would anyone really want their school child to be assigned to the Harry Potter Room? I think not! Come on Marshall, our children deserve better.

-- Posted by OldOwl on Fri, Sep 18, 2009, at 12:03 PM

Thinking back to the last floor plans for the elementary school, I believe this floor plan is very similar. I don't think we are exactly rushing into this. We have had this in the plans for years. Supposedly, teachers have been involved in meetings with architects in hopes of some day being able to start replacing the almost ninety year old buildings that continue to plague our district. In what year did we try to pass the last one, Eric? I think it was when Joe Aull was superintendent.

Eric, thanks for supplying excellent information to clarify readers' concerns and questions.

-- Posted by oneofmany on Thu, Sep 17, 2009, at 11:04 PM

Countryman, I can't imagine that the people who live in that area would consider it a positive thing to have a road for the new school leading directly into the club? Did you mean that as an advantage to them or a disadvantage?

-- Posted by oneofmany on Thu, Sep 17, 2009, at 10:56 PM

Thanks for the info fvsol, much appreciated. :)

Mr. Crump great job responding to all of us, great work.

Gal66, your comment: "I would also bet that just about everyone that gripes about the amount of money that this school bond will add to their taxes blows lot more money every month on stuff that's not necessary to them or their kids."

Couldn't agree with you more. In addition those same people complaining, likely won't be impacted as bad if at all.

For the record I haven't made my decision how to vote for this.

-- Posted by Scarpetta on Thu, Sep 17, 2009, at 10:59 AM

Again as I have seen stated in some of the comments this bond will not pass simply because as before, the board has decided on a new school and are forcing it on the first ballat available.

Planning is not there for anything. All the citizens of Marshall and Saline county want from you is a reasonable request. Hey lets build a school and so and so says it will cost 20 mill. put it on a ballot, is not a reasonable request.

You have a committee, you have a board, now start from scratch and reinvestigate what your needs are and look at how long it will be before you need to move other grades into another new school and what that will cost. Get 12 architects to give you estimates and designs, for all your needs, Ask local land owners to come forward with offers, there are old business in this town that could be torn down and the area used. Heck we give con-agra anything they want, why can't some of the old places be used for school. I know there are restrictions on parking, access and thousands of other things, but investigate and then investigate again.

Sorry so long, but after you have done the homework as we tell our childern then you can go out and play (maybe build a school)...

Thanks for the speakout place.

-- Posted by drop555 on Thu, Sep 17, 2009, at 9:13 AM
Response by Eric Crump/Editor:
I would encourage you to read the stories posted on our website.

www.marshallnews.com/topic/mpsdbond09/

Your vote may not change, but I think you would find that quite a number of your concerns have been addressed.

In my opinion the vast majority of people that are so opposed to this school bond are always going to be opposed to any new school bond because they either have their head stuck in the sand or have a complex that some one with more money than they have is going to get the better end of the deal.

Is this the perfect plan? NO

Will it ever be? NO

Most of the people in this county that don't have jobs don't want to work and have not worked a lot longer than the last 2 years yes that's my opinion.

I would also bet that just about everyone that gripes about the amount of money that this school bond will add to their taxes blows lot more money every month on stuff that's not necessary to them or their kids.

Go ahead Marshall keep letting this town get farther and farther behind!!!

-- Posted by Gal66 on Thu, Sep 17, 2009, at 6:45 AM

thank you eric for the sincere reply. you do a good job presenting issues and covering things, i know from personal experince it's a hard job, but maybe you should get more help with this particular issue, you can't cover it all alone?

"There is a plan to expand to add a second elementary building to a nearby site that the owners have said they would be willing to sell at some point."

more info needed here? i want specifics. sounds like the owners are willing to sell at some point when it's at the highest cost for the school district? i want to know this info before i vote on nov.3

-- Posted by aikman8 on Wed, Sep 16, 2009, at 10:43 PM

would love to see a new school, extremely important thing we can do, but ... do it right, and don't rush it.

i will be voting no ... don't like the location of the school, would like to know how much the land out there will cost the taxpayers, and i don't think the whole thing has been planned out or researched well ... i sense this is something trying to be obama'd through without enough thought to it, just push it through before people wake up, let's get ANY kind of school no matter what issues it may cause us in the future.

this is obviously a school that will need to be expanded on in the future, we're going to have issues with that and they'll just be proposing further expansion in the future ... has this been taken into account and planned for? is there enough land being purchased out there for that? haven't heard a thing about it. the latest and greatest plan the committee and school board just came up with does nothing to address any other schools in the system that will need to be addressed in the future.

who selected this "community school bond committee" that recommended a plan to the school board and what are their qualifications to make a decision? what did they base their recommendation on? what research did they do to come up with their recommendation? i personally don't think they had enough time to make a good decision and this thing is being rushed.

just my two cents worth. put me down for a "no" vote unless i hear many more answers and specifics from a school board that is supposed to be serving us.

-- Posted by aikman8 on Wed, Sep 16, 2009, at 8:07 PM
Response by Eric Crump/Editor:
I probably can't answer all your questions, but I'll tell you what I know:

The community school bond committee has been entirely self-selected at this point. The school board called a meeting that was open to anyone interested in the project. At the first meeting, John Angelhow and Wayne Crawford offered to co-chair the committee. Two subsequent meetings were also open to the public and included a mix of community members, district staff and school board members. Wayne Crawford was co-chair of the last successful school bond issue in the early 1980s. Several members of the school board were involved in the previous bond issues this decade. Supintendent Craig Noah wrote his dissertation about school bond issues.

The current plan is based in part on research done for previous new school proposals and on public feedback after the three failed bond issues, so in a sense, the research has been going on for almost 10 years.

There is a plan to expand to add a second elementary building to a nearby site that the owners have said they would be willing to sell at some point.

If the bond issue passes, board members have pledged to ask voters for permission to issue another bond as soon as its feasible, and since there will already be a debt service levy in place, they hope to do the next school without having to raise taxes -- or not as much, anyway.

I'm sorry my stories on the project have been incomplete. Quite a lot of information has been presented at board meetings and bond committee meetings. Lots of questions have been asked and addressed. I just haven't had time or space to share all I've learned.

Glad you asked & please ask more.

Coverage on the issue so far:

http://www.marshallnews.com/topic/mpsdbo...

Great information. Thank you.

-- Posted by mu-grad on Wed, Sep 16, 2009, at 6:11 PM

Scarpetta,

For your questions about Sedalia's school, you can find all of that information at sedaliademocrat.com. It takes five minutes to look up. I'd also recommend looking at pictures of their new school at www.sedalia200.com

Here's your info:

Sedalia voted to bump their tax rate from $3.22 to $3.77 in April 2007. They had rejected a tax increase in June of 2006 and also in 2004, but were persistent enough to finally pass the levy. Their 2008 property tax rate was $3.8255.

Size of new Sedalia High School: 225,000 sq. ft. (grades 10-12)

Architects: Sam A. Winn & Associates; Springfield, MO.

Construction: Septagon Construction Co.; Sedalia, MO. (they were considered as bidders on Marshall's construction, but were higher than Titan Construction)

Cost: Voters approved a 20-year, $23.5 Million ($22 Million for the new high school, $1.5 Million for six classroom additions at two elementary buildings, $2 Million was donated for a new theater at the high school)

--They had the same complaints (location, timing, & cost), but voted for it anyway. These two articles could have easily been written about Marshall's current situation, not Sedalia's old school situation:

http://www.sedaliademocrat.com/news/scho...

http://www.sedaliademocrat.com/news/scho...

The Sedalia Democrat even posted information about tax credits for people who think they can't afford the tax bump:

"The Homestead Preservation Credit and the property tax credit are available for people who meet the qualifications, including having less than a certain income and being over a certain age.

Call the Missouri Department of Revenue at (573) 751-4450 for more information."

http://dor.mo.gov/tax/personal/homestead...

-- Posted by fvsol on Wed, Sep 16, 2009, at 5:24 PM

Thank you Eric.

Here is another thought, is the board taking into consideration that this may not be passed? Are they doing anything about the "moisture problems plague several of Marshall's older school buildings" or are they just letting it ride till the November vote. More like a "squeaky wheel get the grease" kind of thing.

-- Posted by Scarpetta on Wed, Sep 16, 2009, at 1:20 PM
Response by Eric Crump/Editor:
From what I can tell, the district is doing the best it can with the means it has. Without doing some research, I can't list all the maintenance projects that have been done versus those that are needed (that would be an interesting study), but I believe there has been roof work done on several elementary schools in recent years. I know from observation that Southeast's basement appears to be in worse shape than Eastwood's, which is fairly clean for an old building. Both buildings have paint bubbling in places and signs of water damage on walls and ceilings -- not throughout but in spots.

Board member Kathy Green said at the Monday bond committee meeting that she believes the board should put the issue on the ballot in April if it fails in November. That would be the last opportunity to get federal interest help. Craig Noah told me if the bond issue fails the district will continue to do the best it can with the money and facilities it has. Noah has told the board several times that its capital improvements budget is dangerously inadequate.

WonderJim,

I agree with you.

I realize time is of the essence but a hap-hazard play will leave this dead in the water again. I asked about the new school in Sedalia, but never got much of a response to it. Such as: who designed it? constructed it? how much to build it? Capacity?

Given the economy and how many people are unemployed and needing work...I would think getting more quotes for cost would be a best option. How long ago were these quotes ($20 million) obtained? Has an attempt to get additional information been done 100%?

-- Posted by Scarpetta on Wed, Sep 16, 2009, at 11:56 AM
Response by Eric Crump/Editor:
The early cost estimates were presented to the board in July.

I reckon that the possible second access road, mentioned in paragraph 8, will lead directly into the "club", eh?

-- Posted by countryman on Wed, Sep 16, 2009, at 8:05 AM


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