Cassville R-4 Schools staff weighs in on capital projects

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Teachers provide insight to important projects for administration

The Cassville R-4 School District has laid out a capital projects list and ranked projects by importance, and teachers at each school have now provided input to the administration of which projects are more important than others.

Superintendent Richard 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. After soliciting input from school administrators, teachers and maintenance staff through a survey, Asbill said many of the employees are in agreement on the most important projects.

"The feedback has been very positive for us," he said. "We've re-aligned our list based on their input, and that's valuable because we can see some needs as a higher priority and get other perspectives."

The staff, which includes about 200 teachers, cited the electrical issues in the primary middle and high schools as a top priority, as well as technology and roofing issues, which aligns with the administrators' list of priorities.

Asbill said although they agree on some of those larger projects, the teachers have opened the district's eyes to some other projects that may be more important than it first thought.

"The middle school seating ranked really high among teachers, and I wouldn't figure out why it ranked where it did," he said. "So, I went to take a look and the wooden bleachers in the middle school gym are 48 years old and it takes multiple people to pull them out. Otherwise, there is a lot of play and shifting, and they don't pull out straight. When dealing with seating for different events, we can now see this is a huge priority."

Asbill said the district is evaluating the seating, and it may be more feasible to replace the bleachers instead of just repair them.

"If it is more cost-effective to replace them than repair them, that's what we'll do," he said.

Teachers also ranked the schools' bathrooms at a higher priority than the administrators, and Asbill said that is likely because the teachers use them so often they see the downsides more than administration.

"We have bathrooms that are 30-40 years old and partitions made from plywood and two-by-fours," he said. "So, we have to do some renovations, and that's something the teachers and students alike will benefit from."

Jennifer Pendergraft, math teacher at the middle school, said she ranked technology and electrical issues high on her list, citing the lack of access to computer labs and the difficulty that comes with the small amount of outlets in her classroom.

"In the middle school, we only have one computer lab that's open to anyone for daily use, and the other is used for half the day for classes," she said. "They are always full, and it's hard for teachers who only use them here and there to get access to them.

"The electricity has also become an issue in setting up computers in the library, and we've had some classrooms where the outlets would blow. My smart board, projector and computer all have to be plugged in at the same time, too, so having to arrange the classroom in a way to make that work can be a challenge."

Pendergraft said things like minor classroom improvements and replacing the water fountains fell to the bottom of her list, but she understands those issues may affect other areas of the school more than hers.

Asbill said the list of projects was sent to school staff to rank from 1-4, with one being most important and four being least important. Asbill then averaged those results and combined them with administrative rankings to form a list that he hopes will satisfy all school employees.

Leading the list is technology and electrical needs, followed by roofing, the high school and middle school gym HVAC systems, middle school seating, the primary school HVAC system, bathroom repairs, and gym lighting. These projects represent the top half of all projects, ranked highest on the list of priorities.

"It's a great thing the teachers have a good idea in mind of what's important for our kids," Asbill said. "Having electrical issues, technology issues and roofing issues high on both lists show everyone understands what is most important."

Pendergraft said she was happy with the administration's interest in gaining teachers' input.

"I think they have been trying to ask for more teacher input over the last year or two to make them aware of the types of things they need to take care of," she said.

The capital projects list is a 3-5-year plan the district hopes to fund by passing a $4 million bond issue, which 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.

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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