Seneca R-7 School Board members held a budget work session and series of closed sessions in a special Monday evening meeting.

Seneca R-7 School Board members held a budget work session and series of closed sessions in a special Monday evening meeting.

Capital expenses were the primary discussion for the evening. Board members worked from a prioritized list and separated items to be included paid from the remaining bond balance from fund four priorities.

 “We need to get in here and start looking at stuff that’s needed to finish the buildings,” said board member Britt Burr.
Board members have had lots of calls about getting remaining funds spent on special projects, but most of the “leftover” funds will go toward finishing out construction.

The balance remaining on the intermediate school project came to $786,374.17 and bond money leftover from the high school project was five cents. Board members approved moving $400,000 in architect fees – paid out before the bond started – from fund four to the bond fund, leaving them with $362,202. A mezzanine bleacher project had already been approved, bringing the unallocated bond funds to $253,202. A $100,000 retainage has already been set aside for final construction expenses on the project.

Board members took the $253,000 number as their working budget for the remaining bond funds. Prioritized items on the bond list include: a playground area at the intermediate school; additional middle school lockers; security cameras for the intermediate school; bleachers for the intermediate school; playground equipment; parking lots at the high school behind the bleachers and St. Louise Street and a parking lot at the intermediate school; and switching out black high school bleacher modules for blue ones.
Board members discussed the merits of the projects, but tabled decision making to the January meeting, where better cost estimates will be available.

The playground, Seneca superintendent Rick Cook said, is optional. The current schedule has been arranged so intermediate school and elementary school children do not share the playground, but they could.

Board members discussed replacing some of the tall lockers at the intermediate school with half-sized ones so students will not need to share. The tall lockers could be moved to the junior high. Right now two-thirds of the students are sharing lockers.

“I’m living in that mess right now and I can tell you it’s not working,” said board president Joe Caputo.

Board member Gary Little pressed members to consider digital security cameras at the high school in addition placing them at the intermediate school.

The high school has some analog cameras, but the intermediate school has none.

“I see the security system as more important,” Little said. “If something’s got to give, cut the parking lots and put the cameras in there.”

Combining the need for bleachers at the intermediate school and the general dislike of the black modules at the high school, Burr suggested moving black seats to the intermediate school. The new seating there would be all black and the board could use blue at the high school. Board members asked a sample blue be submitted at the next meeting.

Parking made the bottom of the district’s bond list. The St. Louise Street lot is already gravel and could wait, board members decided. They are still considering several options at the intermediate school.

Fund four prioritized items include: improving drainage at the elementary school; a portable high school stage, high school track, air conditioning at the industrial arts classroom, track lighting, two wrestling mats, motion detector light switches, replacing old high school windows, new visitors’ side bleachers on the football field, an indoor track, a low water bridge, turf at the football field.
Drainage at the elementary school was the top priority and contractor Shane McDaniel estimated it could be improved for $50,000 by removing some earth, adding some pipe and digging out a nearby ditch to take care of water overflow. An engineering study put the cost much higher.

“He thinks we won’t have and drainage problems anymore,” Cook said.

Seneca is the only school in the Big 8 Conference without a track, the second item on the fund four list.

Two families spoke in favor of putting in a high school track. Parent Dale Foley suggested volunteer work at fuel prices to get the dirtwork for a track and pits done.

“I think if we give Seneca people and opportunity they’ll step up,” he said.

Students try to practice at track meets, because that is their only chance to use competition facilities. Foley has seen one of the boys practice hurdles by jumping over fences.

“That’s the only place he can practice,” Foley said.

Burr advocated putting a practice track. Additional parking, lighting, seating, bathrooms and concessions could nearly double the $275,000 price tag, he said.

“Maybe it’s a six-lane rubberized one like we had before,” he said, noting it could be replaced later.

“We don’t want a track like we had,” said Wayne Blaylock.

Some have suggested a track facility be put in at the school farm, but the more likely location would be the 4.67-acre addition to city park that will be paid for by a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant. That grant requires facilities to be open to the public and board members worried about damage to the track surface.

A sidewalk grant approved by the Missouri Department of Transportation for Seneca failed for lack of a motion.

Cook said it would save the district two bus routes and Caputo called twice for a motion, but board members said the timing was wrong and other items took priority.

The grant offered the district $239,985 for sidewalk construction. The district would need a $59,997 match, but they would also have to pay $75,000 in engineering fees – a cost they did not anticipate when applying for the grant. Cook suggested a lease-purchase agreement making $29,000 payments spread over five years.

 “If it comes down to priorities I’d personally be more leaning towards putting in a competitive track,” Caputo said.

Tabled in the past two meetings, the board approved $17,000 in storage units for band instrument at the junior high and intermediate schools.

Cook will retire at the end of his June 30 contract and members met for two hours behind closed doors prior to open session to review applicants for that position.

“We had 24 applicants and the board is going to interview six,” Dr. Bob Watkins, Missouri School Board Association consultant on the search. “They had a good range of candidates.”

The holiday season could slow down the process, but the six remaining candidates will be interviewed by board members in closed-door sessions.

Watkins hopes the board will be prepared to announce a new superintendent early next month.

Board members held a second closed session to discuss parent concerns about bussing issues.

Four families came to the Thursday meeting complaining about bus drivers singling out their children for punishment, yelling at children and one driver who pays too much attention to the girls. Board members did not comment on the results of the discussion other than to note that leased busses will be required to carry cameras before school starts back in January.

The board meeting concluded with a third closed session.