The Neosho R-5 Board of Education got to experience the high school's overcrowding issues through the eyes of several district teachers Monday evening at the board's monthly meeting.

The Neosho R-5 Board of Education got to experience the high school’s overcrowding issues through the eyes of several district teachers Monday evening at the board’s monthly meeting.

Overcrowding and increased enrollment have been the topic of discussion at several district meetings and work sessions recently, as district administrators and school board members have worked to find a solution to the district’s seemingly shrinking space.

On Monday, the school board heard from seven Neosho High School teachers about the effects the overcrowded school has had on their classroom instruction.

The primary concerns brought up by teachers were the crowded hallways, and the classroom shuffling due to the teachers not having their own classrooms.

Travis Garren, a business teacher at NHS, said moving from classroom to classroom has caused him to lose instruction time with his students.

“Five: that’s how many times I’ve been tardy to my class,” Garren said. “The reason is, by the time I dismiss my students out of sixth hour and walk from the gymnasium to the Ag building, I can’t make it. I see the students out of my sixth hour and I’m behind them with my classroom in a box.”

Garren said the high school offers six sections of personal finance, though the subject does not have a home.

“It’s one of our required classes that does not have a classroom dedicated for it,” Garren said.
Melanie Cox, a first year teacher at NHS, said working through the first year of teaching is difficult enough without sharing a classroom.

“It’s really hard for us as new teachers to establish a routine and to get used to those little things whenever we’re jumping from classroom to classroom,” Cox said.

Cox, an English teacher, said changing classrooms also creates a disadvantage for students, as they lose out on classroom time.

“My students beat me to my room three times out of the day,” Cox said.

Kathryn Felix, also an English teacher at NHS, said the biggest concern among students seems to be getting through the overly crowded hallways.

“They come in every day, and they want to be a part of what the Neosho Wildcats have to offer, but you can see the strain from time to time,” Felix said.

Corey Roy, Neosho R-5 athletic director, also approached the board regarding the lack of athletic space at the high school. He said the building is lacking in adequate locker rooms and locker room space, storage, and coaches offices.

“I think it’s a matter of respect for our kids and respect for school,” Roy said.

Board members have discussed in recent work sessions the possibility of pursuing a bond issue, possibly to build a new junior high school.

Though that solution would not offer relief until years down the road, it could potentially free up classrooms for high school use, as the eighth grade is currently housed at the high school.

The high school is also continuing to use mobile classrooms to help bridge the gap in classroom space, though they lost one this year to the middle school, due to lack of safe space to locate it at the high school.

 The district had also included in its long-range planning the addition of ten classrooms to the Neosho High School, though Darren Cook, NHS principal, said the mobile classrooms would still be needed along with the addition.

Shawn Dilday, district maintenance director, said that addition would cost approximately $1.6 million.
Phil Wise, school board member, said it is difficult for the school board to find the solution to the overcrowding without a master plan in place.

The board discussed the creation of a new master plan at a recent work session, and approved Monday evening to request for proposals, the first step toward finding a company to help create the district’s new plan.

“I bleed black and gold and it’s very upsetting, but I guess I have a different viewpoint now as a board member,” Wise said. “We have to make the right decisions, it’s tough without a master plan and I’m not saying we’re going to wait on that plan for those 10 classrooms, but everything we do and everything we spend money on, the community is watching us.”

Wise said he believes the district would eventually need to build a new school, though he could not be sure what kind of facility would be needed without a master plan to base that decision on.

The board also discussed using a future FEMA shelter to create additional classroom space for the Neosho High School.

Originally, the board had discussed locating the shelter across the street, near Bob Anderson Football Stadium.

However, on Monday evening, they discussed the possibility of adding the shelter onto the front of the high school instead.

Tim Crawley, the district’s director of operations, said if the district were to change that location it should not have an effect on FEMA’s support of the shelter, so long as the populations served by that location would remain the same as what the district had listed in its application.

He said the district is still waiting on final letters for the three FEMA projects, which are shelters at Neosho High School, South Elementary School and Carver Elementary School.

Once that final approval is given, the district will have six months to submit final designs to FEMA.
Crawley said they would then have 18 months to complete construction.

High school overcrowding was only a discussion item at Monday evening’s meeting and no action was taken on the matter.

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For more on Monday evening’s board meeting, see Thursday’s edition of the Neosho Daily News.