R-1 board eyes ESSER II funding for new HVAC, ventilation system in gym

By Laura Schiermeier, Staff Writer
Posted 3/6/21

VIENNA — The Maries R-1 School Board members discussed the possibility of using federal Covid-19 relief dollars to purchase a new HVAC system for the high school gym, saying it would be a good …

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R-1 board eyes ESSER II funding for new HVAC, ventilation system in gym

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VIENNA — The Maries R-1 School Board members discussed the possibility of using federal Covid-19 relief dollars to purchase a new HVAC system for the high school gym, saying it would be a good opportunity for the school district.

This discussion took place at the February school board meeting when Superintendent Mark Parker said the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER II) is federal money Congress set aside for school districts to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on schools across the nation. Because it can be used for Covid-19 related expenses, it can be used to reimburse the district for ventilation improvements. 

Maries R-1 will receive an ESSER II allocation of $351,235 for the 2022-23 school year. The school district already received ESSER reimbursement for the current school year. Parker said because it is federal money the district will have to spend the money first, then apply for reimbursement. The money can be used for purchases and projects as long as they are allowable expenses. The deadline for Maries R-1 to make a claim for reimbursement is Sept. 30, 2023.

Parker said maybe the district can use the money for ventilation in the gym. The gym is old and can be cold in the winter and hot in the summer. 

Parker said the ESSER II funding may be needed for salaries and summer school, depending on appropriation levels near the end of the current fiscal year in June. 

Board member Joe Barnhart said he thinks it “sounds like a good opportunity to get that done.” Parker said already they have air purifiers that will purify 1,800 sq. ft. twice an hour. But these will not work in the gymnasium. 

Board member David Long agreed with Barnhart about the opportunity and asked about doing it for the little gym, too. Parker said maybe, but they will have to wait to see because of the uncertainty of funding at the end of the year. “If they cut our funding, we may need it for salaries,” he said.

Board President Vicki Bade asked about the Formula funding and when it is appropriated. Parker said last year $80,000 in Formula money was withheld in June and the same amount withheld again in July because of the Covid-19 crisis and the impact on the economy. 

The board members asked if Parker had an estimate on what it will cost to renovate the gym’s HVAC and provide an adequate ventilation system. He estimated about $200,000. Board member Cindy Petershagen said that sounds like a lot. Parker said it will be expensive, but in the preliminary thinking and planning about the money, “It is a good opportunity.”

Barnhart asked about the insulation in the little gym, which is located at the southeast corner of the elementary school building. Parker said there are so many windows and it is not well climate controlled. He said an idea is to have the RTI students come and help lay block on the wall where the windows are. High School Principal Ian Murray said the ag shop needs this done as well. 

In January 2021, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 was signed into law and provides an additional $54.3 billion for ESSER II. The funding is appropriated in the same proportion as each state received funds under Part A of Title I in fiscal year 2020.

In other business at the February R-1 school board meeting:

• The board approved Parker’s recommendation for making up snow days missed during the recent two weeks bad weather. The district used all of its alternative methods of instruction (AMI) days as six days of no school will not need to be made up because students were learning from home, either virtually or from packets sent home with students. The district has 34.4667 hours to make up.

Parker’s recommendation for making up remaining days missed include make up two days on March 18 and March 19, which were for parent-teacher conferences. Also attend a full day on April 1. Other options are changing six professional learning community (PLC) days to regular school days to make up one day. Or the district can add days to the end of the school year (May 20-26) to make up any remaining days. Parker said he is trying to avoid adding to the end of the school year because summer school is scheduled May 24 to June 23, plus there will be construction in the buildings during the summer and a schedule to keep. The last day of school currently is set for May 19. 

Board members asked if it is possible the legislature may forgive some of these days missed due to extreme weather across the state. Parker said he doubts it because of the state allowing the AMI days. 

• The board approved the employee health insurance price and plan for the next school year. At the board meeting he explained that two years ago and district switched from the SEC consortium to the OSBA consortium and had a five percent increase for two years because the school district was new to the OSBA group. It was still $30 a month cheaper per employee. Now the two years are up and the premium went down five percent for Maries R-1. OSBA premiums increased 1.5 percent so that is the increase. 

Last year Maries R-1 paid $532.46 per employee per month. If they stay with the same plan and $3,500 deductible, the new rate will be $539.86 per employee per month. This is an annual increase of $88 per employee and $6,200 for the school district’s employee health insurance for the same plan. 

School staff present said they are happy with the health insurance and school district has. 

• The administrative contracts for High School Principal Ian Murray, Elementary Principal Shanda Snodgrass, and Special Education Director Joe Edwards were approved by the board and a year was added to the contracts. This extends their contracts into the 2022-23 school year.

Parker said he has evaluated all three of them over the past year and thinks they are good team members who know what they are doing. He had only praise for them and their work.

Bade said next month they will look at teacher and extra duty contracts. By April they may be ready to look at the salary schedule. 

• There were bags of goodies for each board member to express appreciation for what they do for the students, the staff and the community. Board members also received a certificate of service. 

• The board was informed about the sealed bid process next month for the planned concessions hallway addition. Construction documents will be made available on March 3. There will a pre-bid meeting with the engineer present on March 11, and bids are due on March 25. Parker said at that time when they see how much the project will cost they will have a better idea of what other projects can be done with the remaining bond issue money. 

• Parker said there is an upcoming bus inspection and he hopes to achieve 100 percent. 

• The Maries County Bank is supporting the Maries R-1 School District by paying for two new scoreboards in the gym. At this time the scoreboards are being designed and manufactured. Maries R-1 will pay the installation fees. 

• Board members were asked to contact Senator Bernskoetter to express disapproval of SB55, which was set to be debated the following day. He said if passed the bill will hurt public education in Missouri.

• In the financial report, January deposits from Formula/CTF were $99,285.69, Prop C $31,197.28, and Transportation $6,199. All were a reduction from last month’s deposits. Parker said he hopes to see an increase in June. 

February electricity expense was $3,496.10, and $8,236.20 was spent on propane. 

When asked about if the school campus had any cold weather problems it was reported they were low on propane and had a leaky toilet in a bathroom. 

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