Archive for Wednesday, April 11, 2001

School board talks about growth

April 11, 2001

The Baldwin School Board revisited the district's master plan Monday night, without coming to any definitive action. It approved motions to republish the budget, adopt goals for the district, and approve the high school handbook. A request by the city for a temporary easement on school property for Sixth Street construction was also approved.

The board discussed inviting the city and Baker University to participate in a joint venture concerning the proposed Performing Arts Center. And a Baldwin City citizen suggested the district establish an endowment association to raise money for various projects.

The board unanimously approved a motion to republish the budget. The district exceeded its projected enrollment by 22.1 students this year. The state allows the district to republish the budget to claim additional state aid to cover the extra expense of the additional students. This puts expenditures at $6,482,540, an increase of $52,716 over the old budget. The additional revenue will be used to fund an additional nurse position and increased utility costs. A new budget hearing is set for April 30.

Representatives from Frangkiser Hutchins were present to answer questions the board had about the district master plan. Dick Ritchie told the board that adding another five years onto the master plan was stretching the ability of the architectural firm to accurately predict population changes, but they'd be glad to do it.

"The master plan is created to be updated in such a way as to continually adjust plans to take advantage of projected changes," Ritchie said.

The board expressed its concerns that the master plan fully take into consideration possible increases in population of Baldwin as a bedroom community in the future.

"This is not just a bedroom community," Ritchie said. "People tend to stay here."

That means that while some new residents might be in their child-production years now, they won't be in a few years. They'll stay here rather than moving on to other communities and allowing younger families to move in. So the district may not experience continued growth at the current rate or growth will slow down.

"Two issues drive changes," Ritchie said, "changes in the labor market and communication and transportation advances."

In other words, unless there will be a major change in the job market in Baldwin or unless there is some increase in population expected as a result of the improvements on U.S. Highway 59, then the architects' current projections for the master plan are "projections that best protect" the district's plans for the future.

"The master plan, as a dynamic document, changes all the time," Ritchie told the school board. "We simply need focus from you."

Concerning the issue of classroom space at the elementary level, said Ritchie, there is little difference in the master plan between building a K-2 facility first or a 3-5 facility.

"Because there is significant development in early childhood education, which requires extra space requirements, we recommend that K-2 be built first," he said.

Regarding the plans for a new Performing Arts Center, Ritchie said the difference in cost between a 650-seat auditorium and one with 1,000 seats is considerable. Line-of-sight and sound requirements would make the larger facility cost more than $6 million, compared to $4 million projected for the smaller auditorium.

The current auditorium in the junior high could be converted into six classrooms instead of adding on to the current structure, but the extra work involved to level the floor, completely redo heating and air conditioning, and update the electric utility would cost $70 to $80 per square foot.

"That's only $10 to $15 less than if you built new classroom space," Ritchie said.

Discussion included whether it was prudent to think about creating classrooms out of the current auditorium without its replacement in sight and whether the high school gym could be used or Rice Auditorium at Baker.

Temporary classroom space at the junior high, in the form of mobile units, could be leased or purchased outright. If purchased outright, the district could save the cost of having the units delivered and then removed, and also have the units available within the district for future needs at other sites.

Discussion included the possibility of inviting the city and Baker University to jointly own the Performing Arts Center with the school district. The board will explore this route and determine what the community needs might be for such a joint facility.

The junior high auditorium currently has 549 seats. Originally, it had 50 more seats but they were removed to double the size of the stage. The board discussed whether the proposed 650-seat Performing Arts Center, which won't be any bigger than the current auditorium, meets the needs of the district. No definitive answer was reached. The current high school graduation attendance numbers would exceed available seating even in a new 1,000-seat auditorium.

"It would be nice to have a partner in this," said board president Ed Schulte, referring to a multijurisdictional facility that the city and Baker could also use.

Robert Pringle, Baldwin City resident since 1960, suggested that the district look into establishing a school district endowment association. He said people he has talked to about the idea think it's a good one. He thought it odd that millions of dollars in endowment go to institutions of higher learning where students only spend four years, rather than to local schools where students spend 12 years.

Supt. James White said that endowment organizations are a trend at the current time, and that several school districts have them. The board will look into the possibility and perhaps present some information at the alumni banquet in May.

The board unanimously approved a temporary easement requested by the city during construction along Sixth Street. The easement affects the east five feet of lot 80 on Baker Street and lot 87 on Chapel Street.

Supt. White reported that the construction firm will take down the fence on the ball field on the east side of Sixth Street because the fence is actually on city easement. The backstop will have to be taken down also. He was not sure if these would be put back up after the construction, and would check with the city about it.

The board unanimously approved the handbook for the high school, which is essentially the same document as last year's with only minor alterations. It will be included with the student planners for next year. By approving the handbook now and getting it to the printer before May 1, the district can save money.

White also reported on the cost of a metal building to serve as a space for wrestling practice. He thinks the district can get the job done for about $125,000, or half the price recommended in the master plan.

The board adopted five goals and their indicators by unanimous vote. The goals include exploring ways to retain high-quality district staff, developing long-range plans with the strategic planning committee, reviewing strategies aimed at reducing student use of alcohol and illegal drugs, coordinating ongoing training for staff, and continuing to stress standardized test scores and state assessment improvement in support of the district mission of teaching with purpose and passion.

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