District opts not to seek FEMA grant for shelters
On a split vote, the De Soto USD 232 Board of Education agreed not to proceed with a grant application to build FEMA certified shelters at Mill Valley High School and the district’s seventh elementary school.
The grant would have covered 75 percent of the costs of construction, leaving the district with a bill of approximately $310,000 in construction and design costs for each building.
The FEMA shelters would be able to withstand 250 mile per hour winds. Current building tornado shelters withstand up to 120 mph winds.
Split votes have been common on the board, with Randy Johnson, Bill Fletcher and Tim Blankenship voting in opposition to measures supported by Don Clark, Janine Gracy, Larry Meyer and Jim Thomas. But this time, Blankenship, Clark, Johnson and Meyer were the majority in voting to forego the grant.
In other business, the board:
•Received updates on the expansion of Mill Valley High School and the construction of the new elementary.
Hollis & Miller Architects presented schematic designs for the expansion of Mill Valley. The designs included departmentalization, ease to congested hallways and additional cafeteria space. The architects said progress was on track to receive bids in July.
Horst, Terrill & Karst Architects presented schematic designs for the new elementary.
The design creates Belmont Street as the main entrance for the building with McCormick Drive to be used for emergency vehicles. The design also allows for two additional classrooms to the east end of the building. The classrooms will be bid as alternates, so to stay within budget.
• Approved a motion to ask Bill Miller, director of operations and facilities at the Gardner-Edgerton School district, to clarify why contradictory information was sent to the board and individual members regarding construction costs at Gardner-Edgerton.
The USD 232 Board asked for information when considering contracts for construction management services for expansions to Mill Valley and the new elementary.
A letter from Miller to Fletcher reported different information than that received by USD 232 staff when comparing costs.
Fletcher motioned to ask Miller to explain the differences at an upcoming meeting. The motion was passed by a spilt vote with Thomas, Johnson, Blankenship and Fletcher in favor.
• Discussed the restructuring of the Early Childhood Special Education Program. The Special Services Department gathered information about the program to find ways to become more efficient.
Currently, the program’s curriculum and lessons are planned by early childhood lead teachers – staff not hired as licensed teachers. Susan Sipe, director of special services said, next year the model would change to having licensed early childhood special education teachers plan and instruct students with the support of paraeducators. The model will not involve additional staff, rather lead teachers could be placed as para-educators. The change would save the district between $45,000 and $55,000, the difference between salaries for lead teachers and paraeducators.
The restructuring of the program was not discussed by board members prior to staff being notified on Feb. 24.
• De Soto Superintendent Sharon Zoellner updated the board on the progress of the budget review stakeholder’s committee. Zoellner said the committee has worked to prioritize $4.6 million in cuts for the 2009- 2010 school year. The cuts are advisory in nature and recommendations will be brought to the board in May.
Zoellner asked the board to consider a special meeting to discuss the districts budget. The board approved a special budget workshop, where no decisions would be made. The meeting takes place at 5 p.m. April 13 in the Board of Education Building, 35200 West 91st Street.