The Van-Far R-I School Board held a Work Session last Thursday night to discuss Van-Far’s facilities and possible upgrades that could become a reality through a no tax bond increase, followed by a passing vote from voters.
The meeting came as a result of a community survey taken last Fall that had 200 responses offering input on the facilities of the district.
Jay Berendzen and Jon Berendzen, of Porter, Berendzen & Associates, P.C., gave the group a PowerPoint presentation complete with a Study 1 and Study 2 building design with potential changes.
Both studies were discussed in detail and have slight differences from one another.
A potential Study 2 would have an estimated project cost of $1.8 million.
This potentially would allow the district to build an addition to the elementary school for early childhood and secondary education, moving the group of students from the trailers outside of the building to a 2,450 square foot area on the front part of the main building, next to the offices.
A fenced playground for those students could be included.
Board member Kimber Nation said she hopes the board considers a design to where the district might not outgrow the addition.
The north and south pods would be remodeled with new wall partitions, ceiling, and HVAC improvements.
Currently, the temperatures of each open pod cannot be regulated evenly for the classrooms.
Board member Jim Hopke noted concerns shared to him from Kindergarten teachers that their pods might need to be isolated as well. Two are currently open and one is not.
Bathroom renovations could be considered for the elementary school. Some current plans show sinks being in a different area from the toilets.
A potential lobby area for the front door was also discussed.
At the high school, Study 2 includes plans to replace 23 doors at a cost of $1,200 per door.
Board member Larry Wheeler expressed an interest in having a local carpenter remove the existing doors for a cheaper rate. It was mentioned the district has to remember prevailing wage on jobs costing more than $15,000.
The discussion also included asphalt paving/sealcoat, a concrete parking area, new gravel parking area, and several improvements made in the parking area at the elementary school. The elementary parking lot could have a concrete foundation poured for the area the busses do pickups. A gravel area could be extended in place of where the trailers are now.
Culverts may also need to be widened.
Nation asked if the board could consider using money from an existing fund balance. It was explained that the 23% is a healthy number and pulling from those revenues could set the district up for a shortfall due to the uncertainties of the state and federal government funding.
Wheeler expressed concern that the district not be too far in debt with bonds.
It was explained that the 2006 issue was paid off last year and prepaid bonds gave the district a saving of $400,000 last year.
The pods were a focal point for board members Dr. Greg Frost and Nation.
“It seems criminal what the kids have to learn in,” Dr. Frost said in relation to the pods.
“They’re not learning,” Nation added.
Van-Far Superintendent Dr. Stephen Hunter said that any ballot language needs to be defined by January 27 for Audrain County to be on the April ballot.
“We’re nowhere near bonding capacity,” Dr. Hunter added. “We’re in good shape.”
“I hope we stay in good shape,” Wheeler noted.
Plans include the board crafting potential ballot language in time for approval during the Van-Far R-I School Board meeting this Thursday, January 22.
No decisions were made or voted on during this open work session.