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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Board vote moves project further

Monday, March 16, 2009

Plans are underway and a building project is being set into motion.

The Clay Community School Board of Trustees voted 6-1 (board member Forrest Buell opposed) in approval of the security projects at North Clay Middle School, Northview High School and Clay City Jr./Sr. High School. The vote remained the same for the approval of the schematic design, which now allows the architects to move onto the design development stage of the elementary building school project.

Kyle Miller, of Schmidt and Associates, came to the board asking for the approval to move into the design development stage, which would involve more detail being added to the project.

"We used Jackson Township (Elementary) as the model, and then tried to put together a formula to raise the other elementary schools to that level," Miller said

Since the preliminary numbers were first configured, which established a dollar amount for each school, Miller explained that Schmidt and Associates have met several times with Supt. Dan Schroeder, Building and Grounds Director Tom Reberger, Business Director Mike Fowler, and the Skillman Corporation, as well as having different meetings with each principal from each school and meetings with the administrative staff.

"We've had a lot of meetings with them to find out what their needs are keeping in mind that we are trying to raise them up to the level of Jackson," Miller said.

The numbers have changed for each of the buildings since the beginning of the project because the research that has gone on since then.

"One question that you are going to have is why have they changed so much," he said. "The answer is we know more now then we did then, it was a broad brush approach, it was on square footage."

One example used was Clay City Elementary, as it was implied that the mechanical systems would need upgraded, but it doesn't need to be because it was updated four years ago.

Other buildings, like Eastside, Meridian and Staunton have had some additional square footage to them and that is from talking to the principals and seeing what is needed.

Board members are asking for a more definitive reason as for the cuts that are made.

"As a board member I need more details to explain to taxpayers the changes in the numbers," Board member Tina Heffner said.

A two-page update summary will be provided to each board member to explain the changes from the beginning of the process to the meeting.

"The good news is we are in budget, and we can say that all the buildings will become as equitable as Jackson," Miller said. "We will be meeting with the principals some more. The numbers may shift a little bit but you won't see a big change."

"The bottom line is we are within budget," Reberger said. "We are always working from the bottom line and that is our can not exceed that number. We feel comfortable we will be below that number, then the will take anything left over to go back and reduce the bond issue. "

With concern of the economy, Miller was reassuring with the cost of the bids.

"As bad as the economy is, construction bids are coming in very low," he said. "We don't know where we are going to be in four or five months but we are expecting to get some very low bids."

Victor Landfair, representing of the Skillman Corporation, spoke to the board about the schedule for the building project.

In order to receive the best price for the overall project, there will be four bid packages based on cost and location:

* Package one is the security projects at the middle school and high schools,

* Package two is the Jackson Sewer Project because it will be a specialty project,

* Package three is the Staunton, Meridian and Eastside because they all have commonalities in additions, and

* Package four is the four remaining elementary schools because they are more scattered out and smaller in scale.

"Package two and three we would like to bid in July or August and package four a month later," Landfair said. "There is some strategy to this, which will allow us to get you the best price."

"This is just the approval for us to move on to the next part of the design," Landfair said. "The school is committed to nothing."

Bonds will not be sold until after the construction documents are completed, which will not be until the fall.

Board members had some discussion before beginning the vote for the approval of the schematic design.

"I have been for these projects all along, this is a public meeting and this information that we have came out a week ago," board member Ted Jackson said. "I have documents back to 2006 this is showing that we have changes from $70,000 to $1.4 million at different schools. It is just disappointing to know all the work that has gone into this and there is such a variance."

He also commented on needing to be aware of everything that is going on because of the public concern.

Board member Dottie King commented on the security of the schools and providing a classroom for the students.

"I have been on the project from the conducting, and we have looked at the education of the students," she said. "I am convinced that the most disenfranchised kids in the county are from those schools, and they are not of the same caliber of the other buildings. Those teachers go face-to-face with those kids.

She eluded to how other counties are closing schools, an alternative and middle school, but believes this shouldn't be done to the elementary schools in Clay County.

"Those teachers in small classrooms are making a difference," she said. "We were going to make a super school and I can't say let's close those town schools and put them in a big school and make it cheaper. We are going to make a difference in the lives of kids in this county, I think we did consider education when we decided to do this project."

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I respectively disagree with Dottie King's comments about school size, as a larger school does not automatically mean a larger class size for one thing. Another thing is that no one even mentioned building a consolidated school to replace any existing ones. What was suggested was to look into whether or not existing school buildings were truly being used at capacity and to adjust district lines to redistribute in order to close one school if we are not fully using our buildings. Then shift central office and preschool facilities into that closed school to get rid of the responsibility of maintaining superfluous buildings and the expense of non teaching staff in order to put more teachers into classrooms.

Both Vigo and Anderson have looked at this possibility and Anderson is closing 6 schools so it is not just alternative type schools that are being closed.

Clay County MAY be fully utilizing all of their buildings but for some reason the board refuses to even investigate this route to see IF we are continuing to spend money on buildings we don't fully use.

The claim that the kids within city limits would suffer as they are generalized into a lower socioeconomic group comes across as a humanitarian one but what it doesn't say that by not looking into the possibility of trading administrative/maintenance staffing costs in a superfluous building prevents ALL students from the benefits of a better teacher/student ratio and prevents many both out in the county AND in the city from the benefit of a 7 period day. Seems like board does not want to look into the possibility of offering more academic opportunities for ALL Students [even the ones within city limits] just to keep a building in use and won't even look at this opportunity.

The fact that kids in the city not having transportation to allow them extra curricular activities is a weak one for two reasons.

1] There are plenty of kids out in the county who cannot participate in EC's because their only transportation is the bus

2] Her statement AGAIN makes me realize that EC's for some are carrying more weight than academics for all.

At the very least this corporation should LOOK at our occupancy at the schools so we might have another option, if only to redistribute the student population in order to balance the classroom size more evenly among the elementary schools.

Hypothetically: [My kids went to Jackson so I will use the following as example]. I would have rather sent them to Forest Park or Clay City if it would even out the class sizes better for smaller classes than to leave them at Jackson with large class size. Many schools have to do this every few years in order to rebalance when the populations shifts. IT is something you do to save money that does not hurt academics. As a matter of fact it helps as keeps class sizes more stable. If a cap is put on class size, let's say of 25. One school may have 54 1st graders so it would need 3 classes of 18, but another school may have 50 so would have 2 classes of 25. At which school will the student be better off? Does it matter where that classroom is located?

I don't think so and if it does then one of them hasn't met standards that should be demanded across the board at all of our schools. That leads to a curriculum standards issue...like one school having a curriculum that another doesn't?? If it is better, shouldn't all the schools adopt it? If it has been proven via test scores NOT to be any better, shouldn't we drop it and be uniform throughout?..but that leads to another issue and this is too long as it is.

So when the state comes in to take over because of our high staffing costs, don't complain Mr Taxpayer, unless you too have asked the board to look at ALL possible ways to save money outside the classroom and still support ALL academic avenues. The state will likely just cut all across the board and we will be wishing we had looked at more options. At that point it will be too late.

While I appreciate that the board puts in many hours and their heart is in their efforts, I just don't think that they look at all the options at times due to that fact that it would mean that it would bring changes to the norm not ever experienced here before. Other counties have realized that these economic times have made education a totally different game with a different set of rules. We can't properly educate any longer by simply looking at it with yesterday's eyes. Hard choices are made within the family to determine which are needs and which are just wants that can be eliminated from the budget and how things must be done differently now. We must do the same thing with our educational system. Look at all possible ways to trim cost but keep what's needed, Academics.

We have more places to look....

What would other readers be willing to trade in order to maintain the highest possible level of academics? Does it matter which school their child is sitting in if class size was better and more academic challenges were offered?

Is this a board problem or is it the community's problem that is the stumbling block here?

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Tue, Mar 17, 2009, at 7:06 AM

(Other buildings, like Eastside, Meridian and Staunton have had some additional square footage to them and that is from talking to the principals and seeing what is needed.) Is the School corp. that out of touch with what has been done to the schools. Or has square footage changed sense this started. I dont get this comment.

-- Posted by kd323 on Tue, Mar 17, 2009, at 7:09 AM

The school corporation is out of touch on many things regarding the educational needs of the community and the options available to meet those needs. With the building project, we have an opportunity to make a positive impact or we can take the option that was taken by the school corporation, that of basically doing nothing educationally but keeping things static as they have been for the last forty years despite the changing needs of the community, Kd323.

1. The square footage variance is just one indication that the last three or four years of planning that the school corporation has wasted our money on yielded a poor plan. The square footage requirement that was used for planning purposes was arrived at by multiplying the 2007 enrollment by the target square footage; Jackson Township's 2007 sq. ft. per student of 147 sq. ft. per student. Of course, there is going to be a variance from year to year as enrollment will! You don't design a building around what is there now, you design or modify a building to enclose what you expect to be there or what you want to put into it!

2. The feasibility study, reported to the board in Feb. 2007, predicted a gain of 160 elementary students across the corporation and a decline of high school students of 75 in the next six years. That period ends in 2012. We need to build to accommodate growth beyond that period unless we want to run out of room.

3. As for the security, Jackson Township was observed to have its new high-security entrance with the door propped open and a little sign asking that visitors report to the office during the spring of 2007. A person entered Northview last school year through an open rear entrance. Our children are about as safe as they are going to be on school property despite any money we put into security enhancements when we don't have policy that keeps the doors closed. Also, if you keep the doors open, you don't need to modify the one front entrance, you need to fence the property!

4. Apparently, no one looked at what is best for the corporation. Right now, we have the Central Office, the maintenance facility, the LEEAP center, six elementary schools around Brazil, the Northview -- North Clay -- Cumberland Academy Complex and the Clay City Complex. The number of locations requires the unproductive and costly movement of employees to perform building and grounds maintenance and movement of lawn care equipment. In addition, six elementary schools are not needed as three larger facilities of 700-student capacity would more than accommodate the current enrollment attending those schools. Reducing the number of locations would also allow us to recoup part of the costs of construction by selling un-needed property.

5. Super School, indeed! I love it when someone uses that term. It shows the lack of research that went into our needs. We need to build a school so we can have super schools, not in size but in academic achievement and opportunities. We need to start consolidating elementary schools around Brazil to reduce the duplication of services we now have such as cafeteria personnel, janitors, and administrative personnel, etc. and target the salary and benefits savings back into the classrooms by hiring teachers instead of reducing our teaching staff.

6. Currently, the plan is to renovate. In the cases of Meridian and Eastside, combined, they would end up with a total of 29 classrooms at a cost of over 11 million dollars to serve less than 600 students and they are projected to last about forty more years. A 700-student capacity building would cost about 15 million dollars, serve 100 more students and last about 80 years. That looks like a better investment to me. Also, there are plans for schools that have or are being built in Indiana that serve 700 students that have a sq. ft. per student of less than the target of 147 sq. ft. per student. The architect being employed by the school corporation doesn't appear to be able to build a new building to accommodate students at less than 155 sq. ft. per student. When every sq. ft. costs over $150, I would think that the school corporation would want to build or renovate as small as possible, yet get the job done in a manner that serves functionality.

7. Is a 700-student capacity elementary school TOO large to be effective for our students? Of the last 16 new elementary schools receiving approval by the Department of Local Government Finance for construction, 12 exceed a student capacity of 600 students and 6 have a designed capacity of 700 students. Both Owen and Greene County operate elementary schools at or near 700 enrollments with almost the same demographics as our students with academic achievement indicators that rival ours. Anyone that states that we cannot do this also is blowing smoke. It is not substantiated by the known facts.

8. By building a new school and merging Meridian and Eastside, we open up the Eastside Building to re-tasking as a replacement for our ageing money-pit that is the current Central Office. All administrative offices could be consolidated into the building and, with the removal of the modular that is on the property, there is 2.3 acres, approximately, behind the building for bus parking and the construction of a shop building to serve the needs of buses and other maintenance functions.

These are just some of the ideas and facts that I have developed since August of 2007 when the school corporation came out with the project in its first form. I have tried to change this project, but have been over-ridden by opinions that cannot be supported by facts, yet are very convincing to the public when the facts are not revealed. Much of the opposition came from the school corporation, which I find odd as I have been arguing the points that the school corporation should be making!

If we do not wake up and demand that the school corporation re-think their plans before contracts are signed, the school corporation will be stuck with the same situation that we have now, that of not being able to afford to educate to the standard demanded by the global job market, until the buildings we now have fall down or are no longer usable as schools, approximately fifty years from now.

I urge EVERYONE to contact the school board and stop the current plan.

-- Posted by Leo L. Southworth on Tue, Mar 17, 2009, at 1:50 PM

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