A well attended public forum Sept. 20 may have left the Climax Springs R-IV Board of Education in a bit of a quandary.
Around 100 people attended a meeting last Thursday in the gymnasium of the school to discuss and hear more information on options to repair or replace the school building. Multiple life safety and building code issues as well as structural problems were found in an architectural review by The DLR Group completed earlier this year. More than 80 of those present also submitted written comments to the district, according to Superintendent Michael Diekmann.
He will be presenting the board with the information from the written comments at their next regular meeting, Oct. 11.
As the three options were presented and discussed, the overall feeling from the crowd was in support of an all new school building with a few dissenting opinions.
From former weekenders who have become full time residents only recently and don't have kids in the district, such as Tim Mulloy, to long-time resident families with kids in the school, such as father of two Chris Baum, most people who spoke out at the forum favored a new building to provide students a safe and modern learning environment.
"This school is tired," commented DLR Group representative Jim French. In addition to life safety issues, such as lack of firewalls and a fire suppression system, there are structural issues from settling and moisture, bathrooms that stink because of the lack of natural ventilation and flooding in the gym when it rains.
Working for the award-winning design firm, French said, "It's amazing what a facility can do to make better teachers and better learners."
Two prior attempts to get related funding measures past voters, however, failed by varying margins. Last year, the district sought a bond issue and then a sunset levy issue in order to build a new school on Hwy. 7. The April vote failed by a small margin, but the August vote showed a much wider gap.
The supporters are welcome, but the mixed message is a little frustrating, said Diekmann. He is ready to see the school move forward with something to fix the issues one way or another.
At the forum, school board president Carl Clark commented, "Something does have to happen. It's one, two or three."
There was one suggestion of shutting down the school and parsing out students to other districts. A petition that had been circulating in the district last winter to get such an initiative on the ballot has so far failed to come to fruition.
According to Diekmann, who says he has been researching this possibility, it is not just a matter of giving the students to another district. The other district would also have to vote to accept the consolidation, he said.
Page 2 of 2 - The district has a preschool to 12th grade enrollment of approximately 245 students.
For the first time since the Missouri School Improvement Program began, the school received full accreditation this year instead of provisional accreditation, according to Diekmann, after making signficant improvements in its state test scores.
1. Build a new school. Cost is currently estimated at approximately $10.5 million with a design and space to allow for expansion at the new location on Hwy. 7. After a few questions on why the board sought to relocate the building, it may explore the cost differential between the plan to build at a new location and sell the old property and the possibility of a new building behind the current structure with the demolition of the old building and some significant grading work at the site. A 94-cent debt service or levy increase would be needed to make a new school possible, according to the current plans. Property tax applies to all real estate and personal property, each is taxed at varying percentages. But on a residence with a market value of $100,000, the tax increase would equal $178.60, pushing the annual bill from $522.50 to $701.1.
2. Renovate. The estimated cost to renovate the school to meet life safety and ADA requirement standards and try to improve issues from settling and moisture penetration is around $3 million. The public would see the least amount of difference in the overall look of the school with this plan as it would only mainly stabilize the structure and solve immediate life safety issues. A 25-cent levy increase would allow the school to start the process of funding repairs and renovations over time. On a residence with a market value of $100,000, the tax increase would be about $47.50, pushing the annual bill from $522.50 to $570.
3. Rebuild part of the school. The majority of the $3 million to renovate would be sunk into the old south part of the school, which is one reason the The DLR Group recommended it be torn down and rebuilt rather than trying to fix it. The approximate cost to bring it up to current educational and life safety standards was well over 50 percent of the cost to rebuild, their report stated. The south part of the school has a second floor that is no longer handicap accessible because the elevator did not meet safety requirements. The new section would also include a new gym. At a cost of $5 million, it is estimated that the addition would extend the life of the facility about 15 years. A 41-cent levy increase is estimated to be needed for this plan. Again, on a residence with a market value of $100,000, the tax increase would be about $77.90, pushing the annual bill from $522.50 to $600.40.