The last hurdle has been cleared for the purchase of property to house the future Neosho Junior High School. Funds to make the purchase could be in the bank by next week.

The last hurdle has been cleared for the purchase of property to house the future Neosho Junior High School. Funds to make the purchase could be in the bank by next week.

The preliminary survey of the property was presented to the Neosho R-5 School District Board of Education at last week’s monthly work session by architect and project manager Eric McCune of Sapp Associates.

The first phase of the geo-tech survey provides information for recommendation to purchase the property, McCune said. A second, forthcoming phase will be more detailed with recommendations for building construction.

“In general, they didn’t find anything in there that would cause any concern for us relative to the purchase,” he said. “There weren’t any visual indications of sinkholes.” Nine borings of the site showed mostly good soils, McCune said. “Really, it seems that doing our due diligence on the property, I don’t see any reason that we wouldn’t proceed.”

To enable the purchase, the first phase for the selling of bonds begins today, according to Tim Crawley, assistant superintendent for business and finance. “They’ve got buyers lined up already,” Crawley said. “They’ve had a lot of good interest and activity on that.”

The state auditor requires a minimum of 10 days to certify the sale of bonds. “We could potentially see it in our account by the 20th of this month,” he predicted. That would give the school district the opportunity to purchase the property before the end of the fiscal year June 30.

Phase one includes $10 million, with the remaining portion of the $24 million bond approved by voters to be sold later, Crawley said. Splitting up the funding allows the school district to take advantage of appropriate interest rates and provide money to work with in the first year. The remaining $14 million will be available in 2016.

Building options
McCune produced a series of drawings showing different building styles that previously were presented to a select committee of junior high staff.

“I think the basic question to ask is, ‘Do we want a double-loaded corridor with classrooms very similar to a high school or do we want to try to create neighborhoods?”’ he asked. The latter are groupings of students around core curriculum classes where they stay in the “neighborhood” most of the day.

The neighborhood classroom concept is exciting from the point of view of curriculum, said Glenda Condict, assistant superintendent of curriculum. “The combined classrooms allow for multi-disciplinary teaching, but more importantly allows for flexible scheduling. This is perfect.”

School board member Steven Douglas cautioned against jumping on a fad. Condict and Superintendent Dan Decker interjected that the concept isn’t commonplace, but is a more efficient environment for learning.

The nature of learning is moving toward collaboration and has embraced technology, Decker said, adding that in the 21st century, the ability of students to work together and challenge each other is increasing.

“In the traditional school model, where you have four block walls and rows of desks, it’s very hard to do that,” he said. “I heard someone speak one time, and they said (that) if you looked at an operating room in 1920 and you looked at a business in 1920, and then you looked at a school, the only one that hasn’t changed is the school.”

Students learn in a different way now, but must be acclimated to a 1920s model, Decker said. “The designs that they are showing feed into where the students are. They learn collaboratively. They use technology back and forth and they brainstorm with each other. That’s how they work now.”

Many of the jobs available upon graduating from college or career school require that kind of training, Decker said.

Teachers will provide input, along with the school board and administration, on the layout of the new school, he said. “Teachers are going to have a huge voice in how classrooms are arranged.”

Decker expects the school board to visit several existing facilities and to hold deliberations throughout the summer before making a decision.

McCune noted that initial designs look at the big picture, including future expansion, and stretching core spaces as much as possible to accommodate future construction.

“At some point in time, our square footage and our budget is going to bump into each other, and we are going to see what we can afford,” he said. “At this time, what we want to do is try to take the biggest, broadest picture that we can.”

In other school district construction news, McCune reported that the contractor for the FEMA storm shelter at the high school is requesting the city provide a temporary certificate of occupancy June 18, weather permitting.