De Soto USD 232 Board debates timing of DHS expansion
By Ashlee Kieler
De Soto USD 232 Board of Education members have renewed the debate about when a voter-approved expansion of De Soto High School should be completed.
Board members at their meeting Monday discussed the advantages and disadvantages of moving forward with the August 2011 completion of the De Soto High School expansion. The board voted 3-2 in June to move forward with the expansion opening in 2011 rather than August 2012 to take advantage of construction savings. Since then, however, Tammy Thomas has replaced Larry Meyer on the board. During Monday’s meeting, Thomas indicated she might favor a later completion date to ease the burden on taxpayers until the economy rebounds
Dave Morford, DHS principal, continued to press for the 2011 completion date. He expressed concern that school’s existing space was already being used to the fullest extent possible.
Morford said the school has 48 teachers but only 41 rooms, meaning eight teachers do not have a home base. Only one teacher is in a classroom not used by a traveling teacher during one of their plan periods every other day, he wrote in a report to the board.
“We are finding it difficult to add classes, and because of growth we are going to add classes. But as we grow programs and add ap (advanced placement) courses, I don’t know where I’m going to put them,” he wrote.
Morford said the problems would multiply by 7 percent next year and 12 percent the following year if the expansion doesn’t move forward with an August 2011 completion.
Jack Deyoe, director of facilities, provided enrollment figures on De Soto High School.
Currently DHS has a capacity of 750 students, and as of Aug. 10 the school had 633 students enrolled. An official count will not be taken until Sept. 21.
Deyoe projected enrollment through 2015 without move-in growth. If no new families move to the area, enrollment for 2011 would be 719 students. There would be 754 students in 2012, he projected.
Board member Randy Johnson, who was absent for the June vote, expressed concern that the district didn’t need to expand the building just yet.
“In these times, we don’t know what the bottom is here, and I don’t want to facilitate an acceleration of foreclosures because people can’t pay taxes to send kids to our schools,” he said.
Mark Franzen, project leader for HTK Architects, which is designing the expansion, addressed the board on what he saw as advantages and disadvantages for the each start date.
“I saw more advantages toward the 2011 completion,” Franzen said. “For instance elementary came in at $2.5 million under cost. You may or may not see that on our project. The earlier, the better chances to get that savings.”
Franzen said the expansion could be done in phases, but that might cost more in the long run.
Board member Jim Thomas, who voted in June for the 2011 completion, said the issue was troubling.
“This is as conservative as you get ’cause you aren’t putting in growth,” he said. “We have to balance need. I’m looking at it as an expensive proposition and balancing that with what is in the best interest of the kids.”
The board did not take action on the issue at Monday’s meeting, but Franzen cautioned members a decision must be made by March 2010 if the board wants to go ahead with the 2011 completion date.