By consensus, the Neosho R-5 Board of Education delayed for a month letting a 10-classroom addition onto Neosho High School out for bids.
Nearly all of the board members spoke out about the issue, whether to delay letting the project out for bids until options from the long range plan were detailed or to let those out for bid now in order to fulfill a promise made to high school teachers earlier this year.
Tim Crawley, director of operations for the district, recommended the district delay the issue in order that the board could consider options such as moving the eighth grade into other buildings.
Darren Cook, high school principal, said the main thing to be addressed was overcrowding at the high school. Currently, several teachers do not have a classroom, but transfer their materials on a cart from room to room on a space available basis.
“The main thing is we need space,” said Cook. “My teaching staff is honestly wanting to see dirt moved in January. But I think one month will not be a bad thing, as long as the teachers can be told.”
Crawley told board members even if approval was given Monday night to let the project out for bids, it would be February or March before ground could be broken.
“What four weeks does buy us is the possibility of asking more questions,” said board member Phil Wise.
Wise said given school district growth projections for the next decade, it is likely a large addition will have to be added to the current high school campus. As the campus is landlocked, there is no way to grow outward. Instead, he said, the only way to build would be to go up. In this, he and board member Steve Douglas questioned that if the district had to “build up” in a few years, would they have to tear down the proposed 10-classroom addition to do so.
“There is some concern from community leaders that if we build now, a few years later, we will have to tear it down to build up,” Wise said.
But board member Lynn Otey said her concern was to follow through on a project she said the district committed to this past February, when funds for the addition were approved to be transferred to capital improvements.
“Teachers can teach where you put them,” Otey, a former teacher, said. “But there comes a time when you need a permanent classroom. I know we need the ‘perfect plan,’ but we’ve got to do something here.”
Siding with Otey was board member Caroline Perigo, also a former teacher, who pointed out the completion of the high school library and the construction of a new softball field as part of the project, with the high school addition another piece of the puzzle.
Page 2 of 3 - “Those 10 classrooms will make a difference in the quality of education we provide to our high school students,” she said. “If you think we can pass a bond issue in April, then we can wait. There’s no reason to tear anything down. We’ve got to do something for the high school students. We’ve got a plan, the architects have drawn up one for the building, and we’ve paid a lot of money to the architects.”
Douglas said to add a classroom addition without considering other options was looking at a short-term solution to a long-term problem.
“The plan is there for the high school, but how does that affect Goodman, or Carver or the middle school?” he asked.
“Everybody is going to end up there,” Perigo replied. “We can go ahead and do the rest of the planning. It will take two or three or five years. Can the high school wait that long? The morale of the high school teachers is so spotty.”
Board member Mike Stauffer asked Cook if the 10 classrooms would fix the problem. “No,” Cook replied, but added it would fix the problem of teachers not having their own classroom.
“If you can have the classrooms and the eighth grade moves out, we will have enough classrooms with one extra room and no trailers,” Cook said.
But this wouldn’t be a permanent fix either, Cook said, as the junior and senior high schools share classrooms, materials, teaching staff, among other things.
Douglas said he understood morale issues, but he also had a commitment to another ideal: what was best for students. He said the high school plan was just that, a plan for the high school that took none of the district’s other schools into account.
“I think the community will get behind and support a bond issue if you show them why we need it,” he said.
“I think if we do this, we show the public we want to do something for our students,” Perigo countered.
Long-time board member Chris Parks said the district has had some capital improvement plan or another in place each year he has served on the board.
No vote was taken, but board members agreed by consensus to wait and see what other options were out there before letting the project out for bid.
In other business, the board:
• Recognized the Neosho High School choir members Lauren Hopper, Miranda Duncan, Chris Montz, Jaclyn Kidd, Olivia Wilkins and Forrest Bunter, who have been selected for All-State Choir, Bunter for the second year; and Bunter, Duncan, Kidd and Wilkins for making National Honor Choir. Those students will travel to Dallas, Texas, in March to perform with top high school singers from across the nation;
Page 3 of 3 - • Honored the Neosho High School FFA Agronomy Team for placing first overall in the national competition in Indianapolis, Ind. This is the third consecutive year the team has taken first, and the fourth time in five years. The team is made up of Nik Manley, Amanda Gannan, Kaitlyn Sage and Zayne Aldrich;
• Heard reports on vocational agriculture and character education;
• Heard reports from the Middle School and Field School principals;
• Approved a final audit report from Davis, Lynn and Moots of Springfield, Mo., for the 2011-12 school year;
• Approved the resignations of Mildred Cook from food service and Cory Henton as a special education teacher at NCIS;
• Approved hiring Aaron Dunbar as a math teacher at Neosho High School; Shain Jordan as a special education paraprofessional at Carver Elementary School; Miranda Brant as an ECSE teacher at Field Early Childhood Center; and Alaina Burkhart as a secretary at Carver Elementary School;
• Recognized Taylor Killion, a student at Field Early Childhood Center, as the student of the month; honored Rosemary Parsons as the certified employee of the month; recognized Wanda Jaimez as the classified employee of the month; and honored Goodman Dollar General as the patron of the month.