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.
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.
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.
2009 Marshall school building bond issue: