Maries R-2 board sets long, short-term goals

Planning CARES ACT, American Rescue Plan expenses

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 5/6/21

During the April 27 Maries R-2 Board of Education meeting, directors voted 6-0 to have all buildings located at one campus in the next 15 to 25 years.

The discussion began when Superintendent Dr. …

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Maries R-2 board sets long, short-term goals

Planning CARES ACT, American Rescue Plan expenses

Posted

During the April 27 Maries R-2 Board of Education meeting, directors voted 6-0 to have all buildings located at one campus in the next 15 to 25 years.

The discussion began when Superintendent Dr. Lenice Basham asked directors to set goals so they could prioritize where it would best benefit the district to spend stimulus funds from the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan.

“The time has come for you guys to set some goals,” Basham said. “I need you guys to move forward.”

Basham told the board she has shared a lot of information with them and they have completed a lot of talks over the last several months. Nothing that they have talked about previously has to be the goals that they set, but she would like one long-term goal for where they would like to see the district going.

“It would be counterproductive to pour a bunch of money into classrooms, and especially the heating and cooling part. Just what it is going to take to take the cooling out of these buildings, let alone redoing it? And then propose building a new building immediately after that,” said Board President Joey Butler II. “If we want a new building, then we don’t want to put a ton of money into what we have. At the same time, we are probably not going to get a new building, so we need to drop a ton of money into what we have.”

Board Vice President Dawn Hicks asked what the census is of everyone in the community.

“Are they for a new building? Are they not for new buildings?” she asked Basham.

“They are for a new building, they are not for raising taxes,” Basham said. 

Butler said the same people who fought the project so hard before will fight it just as hard now.

“I would like to see everything here, but I don’t know that we could get it all here,” Hicks said. “We have got to have the money to do it and without the community there is no way.”

Basham said that they are working on a long-term goal, which could be 25 years down the road. They are essentially telling the community “we are going to work on that.” She added that two of their goals were to educate the community about why they need new buildings and how the buildings are failing.

“But also to focus on education, not facilities,” Butler laughed.

Basham said she finds it hard to talk bad about their buildings.

“That is hard for me to say ‘hey, this is terrible’ while students and teachers are proud of our buildings and we want to keep everybody proud,” she said. “But you also can’t talk so proud that people don’t understand that it is time to start thinking about building a new facility or a new building. All we are doing right now is talking about how we are going to build one new building or where we are going to be in 25 years. Then we start prioritizing for that goal.”

She said if the board wants to work towards a new middle school in Belle, then that is where they start.

“We have some decisions to make rather quickly because we need to decide if we are going to put CARES money into HVAC, we need to decide which building to put that and it should be the last building we are replacing, because that is a long-term use of those funds. I need a priority.”

Director Kenda Sanders said that she felt that should be their long-term priority --- they want to do that and how they are going to get it done.

“Getting us all on one campus should be our long-term goal and short-term goal is how to get there, figure out a strategic plan,” she said.

Hicks said they can’t let the buildings go because that is a long-term goal. They still have to maintain what they have to get where they are going.

“Which building is going to be the last one to go? I don’t know that we could technically get rid of the high school,” Hicks said. “Isn’t it a historic building?”

Basham said it has never been declared a historical building even though it could be. Hicks said she thinks if the building were ever to come down, it would be a sore subject in the community.

Basham said they could wait one more month, but she needs a decision about what the board priorities are. Butler said if she gave them another month, they would ask for another month and they could do it now.

“I don’t know why we think as far as maintaining and fixing leaks would be pretty important to prevent further damage and mold and things like that,” he began. “Fixing leaks and improving the heating and cooling. Is there room in the budget to improve the heating and cooling for anything?”

Basham said CARES Act funds will equate to around $600,000.

“Right now, the next round of funds should be around $1.8 million,” she continued.

Butler said he would have guessed around $2 million to do one building.

“That is why I was thinking, do we want to use some of those funds to replace HVAC or -- what is your priority?,” she asked again.

Hicks asked if there is one building that is worse off than the others. Basham said the elementary school is probably the worst of all three buildings. She added that the high school is not great, the middle school is probably the best. The middle school has different HVAC units than the other two buildings.

Butler said when they were considering redoing the buildings he thought they took bids for the HVAC system to have a price comparison on what it would cost to replace the buildings versus fix them.

“That was one of things we presented,” Butler said. “We went and looked at all of the bad, looked up how much it was going to cost to fix it, and weighed that against a new building,” Butler said. “It was going to cost more to fix everything at the elementary school than it would have been to build an entirely new elementary school. And the HVAC was one of the big ticket items on there.”

Basham said she has the old facility plans in her office. Butler said that would give her an idea if the CARES Act funds wouldn’t be enough or if, wow, they would have a lot of money left after that.

Director Garret Bialczyk said he thinks one campus is a big wish for a lot of people and would save their resources and improve security, especially for the middle school.

“When Belle and Bland schools merged, was there any contract about keeping the middle school in Bland?” Director Aaron Vandegriff asked.

Basham said she didn’t think there was, but she would check. But she emphasized that the middle school is in the best shape and it would be a hard sell to replace the building that is in the best shape to move it to the same campus in Belle. 

“But what Garret said about safety, logistically, and being environmentally friendly, you could throw out why we shouldn’t have a campus in another town,” Butler said. “But we just have to have the money.”

Basham said before they ask the community for money, they need a plan.

“If it is that in the next 50 years they want to have all buildings on one campus, that starts the goals and objectives moving in one direction. If it is strictly that we want to build a new elementary school and bring the middle school into the current elementary, that is a different conversation and changes how we start prioritizing things based on what you think our long-term goal should be,” Basham said.

Bialczyk pointed out that there are many ways to achieve their goal, but they needed to pick a route to get there. Butler asked Basham how many long-term goals she wanted and she said only one right now.

“One campus,” Butler said.

Basham asked if that is what they wanted done in the next 25 years?

“It took Owensville 50 years,” he contradicted.

Basham agreed, but they were able to build one building at a time over the years and it took that long to get everyone to one campus.

“I am good with whatever you guys decide,” she said. “I will not be the superintendent in 25 years. We need an umbrella of goals so everything we do comes down to achieving those goals.”

Hicks said the long-term 15 to 20 year goal would be to have all buildings on one campus. She made the motion to make it the number one goal, seconded by Bialczyk and approved with a 6-0 vote.

Butler asked how many short-term goals she wanted. Hicks said they need to fix some leaks and decide which HVAC system is priority to replace in which building. Basham answered that to make the decision about which system needs the HVAC replaced first, they need to know which building they want to replace first.

“Which is the worst building?” Hicks said.

Basham said the elementary building is in the worst condition. Hicks argued that the goal was to have all buildings on one campus though.

“Either build a middle school or build an elementary school and let the middle school move into the elementary,” Butler said. “We are kind of strapped at capacity right here and the middle school has less students, so they could easily fit in there so to speak.”

Basham said it will take them more than five years to build a new middle or elementary school, so it wouldn’t be a short-term goal, but starting the process would be. She added that the property they previously purchased would not be enough to build all three buildings on campus.

Hicks said her understanding was if they built one school there, the property owner would sell them more. Butler said there were several different deals going, but not all of them were in the contract.

“If we are going to bring our buildings to one campus, we are going to have to start looking at options of how to do that,” Basham said.

Hicks said the property they purchased is in Osage County and some community members were upset about that. Basham said it didn’t matter where the property is located as long as the administration building is located in Maries County.

“We had an engineer draw up plans where all three buildings were located on the current property,” Butler said. “It was rearranged. Some people had mixed emotions about the design of the elementary school, which would have been in one of the parking lots. If that’s what it took to make it happen, then I am for it because it would have been a start.”

Butler said this is where they started five years ago -- they made a goal and started working towards educating the communities with forums and creating committees for people to give input.

“I think we did good educating the community on that one,” Butler said. “It did not matter. People looked at ‘that is going to cost me $200 more dollars. No.’ I don’t know how you change that. You can educate all you want and some people are still going to have that attitude.”

Basham countered that it is the board’s job to make and work towards those goals.

“Once you guys set the goals, we work towards them,” she said.

Hicks said short-term goals should be repairing the leaks and maintaining the buildings they have. Hicks said a short-term goal can be investigating cost to repair and replace the HVAC. Butler agreed and asked about putting in a real sidewalk by parent pick-up. Bialczyk thought that should be a need rather than a goal and Basham agreed because it is simply concrete replacement.

The CARES Act funds are marked for allowable expenses. Basham said the district can do a lot of things. If they would like to avoid having to follow federal criteria, they can arrange the budget differently to reallocate annual revenue to allowable categories the federal government set aside, then use the renewable funds for a one-time need.

Board members also suggested updating the textbook rotations. Belle High School Principal Garrett Haslag said some schools don’t use textbooks. Some subjects only have 25 textbooks for all classes to share. Others use online resources to teach their subjects.

Basham said she would like to see trailers at the elementary and middle schools that are being used for extra classroom space removed.

“What I have so far for short-term goals is improving building security, updating textbooks, maintenance: maintaining what we’ve got, and removing those trailers,” Basham said. “That gives us some places to start looking at for allocating CARES funding.”

Butler said he hoped most of those items would be completed in the next year or two versus the next five years. Basham said they can say six months to 48 months if they wanted.

Vandegriff asked if there were any goals from five years ago that had still not been completed. Basham said she couldn’t find any officially.

“I found where we started talking about a building but never found any goals,” Basham said.

Butler said they may have been lost or never filed. Tuckpointing at the middle school, fixing the north gym wall that is moving away, parking lots, the roof on the middle school, and HVAC systems.

“So we set a short-term goal five years ago, and five years later it is still a short-term goal,” Vandegriff said. “Should it really be a 10 year short-term goal?”

Basham said she is happy with the goals the board set forth.

Butler said there are several projects that fall under those categories.

“So be brainstorming over the next couple of months,” Butler said.

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