Cassville R-4 lays out capital projects plans

Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Jerry Lyall, left, Cassville R-4 School District maintenance director, gets help from his maintenance crew of Rick Morgan, middle, and Lennis Periman in checking a breaker box in the hallway of Cassville Middle School. Part of the district's capital projects plan, and one reason it has proposed a $4 million bond issue, is upgrades to the middle school's electric system, which is outdated because of the abundance of new technology. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrat.com

District to solicit faculty input on priorities of proposed projects

he Cassville R-4 School District is asking for voters to pass a $4 million bond issue in April, and the district is laying out what exactly it hopes to do with the money.

Richard Asbill, superintendent of Cassville Schools, said the capital improvements projects list is has been sent out to more than 200 employees of the district, who he hopes will give good input on prioritizing the list of needs.

"We're going through and ranking and re-ranking our priorities," he said. "We're also trying to estimate a total cost of the [projects on the] list, and we'll try to accomplish as much as possible. But, we know we'll have to prioritize over a 3-5 year plan because some issues are more pressing than others."

Asbill said a couple of the main issues and top priorities in his mind are the electrical issues at the middle school and the roofing issues at the elementary school, middle school and maintenance building.

"The middle school has been added onto three different times in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, so right now, we have no electrical capacity for additional outlets," he said. "There are two outlets in each middle school classroom, and with all the needs for computers, laptops, projectors and charging cords, we can't add any equipment without taking away from other plug-ins."

Melanie Stringer, principal of Cassville Middle School, who is in her third year at the position after serving two years as assistant principal, said the lack of electrical capacity is forcing some students to double-up on computers when using the computer lab.

"We don't have enough electricity to provide all the technological needs for our students because we're in an old building and just run out of electricity sources," she said. "One of our computer labs has enough electrical sources, but the other lab, in the sixth-grade hallway, only has 24 computers when each class averages 26-27 students, so they are having to double-up on some of those computers in that lab."

Stringer said another issue is how the school's smart-boards take up so much electricity, it is difficult to have computers in every classroom. She also hopes the bond issue will pass because it will allow the school to pursue its one-on-one initiative, which will put a laptop, Chromebook or tablet in the hands of any student who may need one in the classroom.

"Ultimately, we have some grandiose plans, like the on-on-one initiative at the high school where students each have a device they may use in school," she said. "We'd like to provide every student with a laptop at their fingertips in the classroom for whenever they need them."

Stringer said the school has some devices for students, but not enough to be able to give all 421 sixth-grade through eighth-grade students a chance to use one as-needed.

As far as the roofing issues, Asbill said the elementary school, middle school and maintenance building are next in the rotation of building roof repairs. The elementary school needs attention in the office area, near art classes and near music classes; the middle school roofing needs to be addressed near the gymnasium, band classes, art classes and music classes; and the maintenance building, put into place in the 1970s, will need a top coat or repairs, following an evaluation.

The next set of projects on Asbill's list of priorities includes the high school HVAC system and electric work at the primary and high schools.

"The HVAC issue goes back to addressing our ground-source heating and cooling," Asbill said. "Last year, we replaced 65 units in the elementary and middle schools, and when those systems get to 20-25 years of age, they may lose capacity or start having maintenance issues. The high school is now 20 years old, so we'll have to address heating and cooling issues in the classrooms and in the gym."

Asbill said the district is also looking at taking the gym off of the ground-source system, which would increase the capacity of classroom systems.

"The gym is a large square-foot footprint, and if we take that off the ground-source system, it will free up a lot of capacity for the high school's system."

Continuing down his list of priorities, Asbill said the district also hopes to improve its technology and address safety concerns.

"Twenty years ago, the latest and greatest technology was to run cable TV into every room," he said. "Now, with HDMI and the Internet, we have to provide increased technological access at the high school and middle school, and we want to carry that to the primary school, as well."

Issues of safety include the district's hope to have more scan-in and electric-lock doors at each school, as well as build a sidewalk from the intermediate school to the Rock Gym.

"Parents have been very happy with us moving the offices and changing the way people can access the school with increased security, so we want to continue that," he said. "We also want to put a sidewalk from the intermediate school to the Rock Gym, because right now, students are having to walk through the parking lot. There are teachers there supervising, but we want a sidewalk to provide a safer flow from one area to the other."

Other projects Asbill mentioned include changing the gym lighting from metal hydride to a high-output fluorescent lighting.

"The middle school gym's and the high school gym's metal hydride lights take a long time to turn on and use a lot of energy," he said ."If we go to high-output fluorescent lighting, like what we have in our FEMA building, we will see some energy savings there."

Asbill said the district also got a rebate from Barry Electric Cooperative for using fluorescent lighting in the FEMA building, so he is hoping to explore that option if the gymnasiums' lights are changed.

Asbill said the district has put a survey online for teachers and administrators to prioritize the capital projects list themselves, and he's hoping for tons of feedback.

"The survey allows teachers to prioritize the issues and it gives us an average for each item," he said. "So, that will allow us to re-prioritize the list based on everyone's input. It's a positive thing to allow this input, so we don't end up focusing on two or three things and forget something else that could be very important."

Stringer said she hopes money from the proposed bond issue will also help the middle school maintain its sixth-grade hallway bathrooms.

"We have very old bathrooms in that hallway and are needing some new fixtures," she said. "We're not worried about the aesthetics, but the commodes themselves are starting to fall apart and starting to leak. We have a great maintenance staff that keeps things in order, but the students are suffering, and it would be nice to get some of those things updated."

The $4 million bond issue will go to voters on April 8. If approved, the bond underwriting will be completed by LJ Hart Company of St. Louis at a cost of $55,200. The district plans to pay back the bonds over a 20-year period using money garnered from the district's property taxes.

Asbill said the district is proposing the bond issue instead of a property tax hike so residents will not feel a pinch in their wallets. Taxpayers will still pay the same property tax rate.

"I hope everyone in the public will become knowledgeable of what our needs are and how this bond issue can really serve our students," Stringer said.

For more information about specific items in the capital projects plan, people may call the Cassville School District at 417-847-2221.

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