Board still in disagreement over Phase II of DHS construction

The De Soto USD 232 Board of Education remains divided over the proposed plans for Phase II of the De Soto High School construction project. The proposed plan has an estimated cost of $8.75 million, which would use nearly all of the $9.7 million that has been saved on Phase I due to lower construction costs. The board is divided over the necessity of the proposed plan, which includes a new competition gymnasium, new weight training room and a flex room. Board members first saw the proposal, deemed Option A, at the January board meeting. At that time the board asked the design committee to return with earlier drawings to show how they arrived at Option A, those designs were not brought to Monday's meeting. Instead, the committee brought an Option B, which still has a new gymnasium, but does not include the weight training room or the flex room and has an estimated cost of $7.97 million.

"I want to know why we still aren't seeing the original plans, the ones that were proposed months ago, before Phase I was completed," said board member Tammy Thomas. "I feel our solution is somewhere between those plans and what's before us tonight."

Tammy Thomas and board member Randy Johnson were the two dissenting voices on the board Monday evening. The strongest supporter of the proposal has been board member Don Clark, who was one of the board members on the project's design committee, along with board member Bill Fletcher, school administrators and architects from HTK Architects firm.

"It's time to move forward with this project. The De Soto community has waited patiently for their turn [to see school improvements] and now it's finally their turn," Clark said.

Echoing Clark, members of the public in attendance at Monday's meeting told the board how the project's progress, or lack thereof, has been affecting them as patrons of the district.

"The fact that there are no immediate plans for Phase II makes me think, as a patron, that the needs at DHS have changed drastically," said Brenda Barger, who has four children in the district. "If the needs really have changed sine we as a community passed this bond thing I think we deserve to see how, if not, please be good stewards of our money and move forward."

It is in the interest of being a good steward that Tammy Thomas and Johnson have opposed the plan. Both would like to see a more conservative plan.

"We keep talking about this plan saying it meets the needs of DHS but I look at this and disagree," Johnson said. "For a school this size I don't think these are the needs, I think these are just the wants and getting them may not be the most responsible thing."

For other patrons in the audience, the responsible thing would be to honor the promise made to the voters when they approved the project in 2006.

"This project just keeps going and going. We in De Soto have been patient, we've let the board prioritize but now we're the priority. The parents who voted on this would like to see their children get to use the new facilities," said patron and parent Rhonda Patterson. "I feel like I bought a new car three years ago and I haven't even gotten to drive it yet."

The board agreed, with a 5-2 vote, to move forward with the project by getting a construction manager from the Manning Construction involved to create more accurate drawings for a closer cost estimate, not to exceed $9.7 million. They will use plans for Option A and pare down if necessary. Tammy Thomas and Johnson opposed the motion.

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