Manila School Board discusses building options

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Manila School Board held a short executive session at the special called meeting Tuesday, July 29, to discuss personnel matters. Following the closed meeting the board accepted 7-0 the resignation of Mike Bridges as bus driver. The board then voted unanimously to approve hiring Jeff Goff as route driver providing all license requirements are met.

The board approved adding assistant football coach title to the job description of newly hired social studies teacher Jonathan Atkins. Atkins was hired at the regular July meeting.

Board members had an open discussion on building plans to meet the projected growth of the Manila District.

Superintendent Pam Castor distributed information packets to review building plans the board had approved, projected growth for the district, millage comparison, cost of portable buildings for reference, and other information relating to the decisions made on the construction of a new high school facility.

"We had proposed 4.7 new mills to generate our part of the funding for building, voted twice to build off campus, selected a site, and approved a plan," Castor said. "The packet contains a summary of what has been done."

The increase in millage failed twice at the polls.

Castor went on to say the 117,000 square foot plans submitted for a new high school building were approved by the state. Castor said the square footage approved does take into account the projected growth.

Due to the millage being voted down twice, Castor has had two conferences with the facility commission.

"They have ruled we must have a solution by 2016 to deal with Tipton Hall," Castor said. "In addition, we have submitted our Master Plan which was approved. Information on the Partnership funding will be released May 1 and then we will see."

Tipton Hall was built in 1950. Classrooms are still being used in the facility.

Board member Tommy Wagner asked how much net growth the district will be gaining with the new facility when Tipton Hall is no longer in use.

Castor said if the district picks up 25 percent of the projected growth of the county Manila's school population could double over the next eight years.

"Looking at this (projected growth) it is exciting but it is a little scary," Board member Johnny McCain said. "Say if we have 10-15 percent of this growth, can we accommodate them here or will it have to be someplace else?"

They discussed the number of students per classroom allowed, along with size of classrooms.

The board agreed they have to look at the situation considering traffic flow and infrastructure along with the projected growth to avoid being in the same situation just a few years down the road.

"The two questions we have to address are what are we going to do and how are we going to pay for it," Castor said.

Board member Brandon Veach said the district has a good building project satisfying what the state allows with the opportunity to grow on that building.

"The question what to build is answered," Veach said. "Here we are. The millage has failed two times so we have to come up with a solution. What can be changed about the project and the cost and how do we go about maybe selling a reduced millage. I've looked at the numbers. We talked about liquidating some of the farmland but at this point a significant reduction in revenue would not be good, but in conclusion we just have to look at and go with the numbers."

Board member Wagner said the board needs to look at all of the options.

"I think the opportunity to purchase land without having to swap four to one may be out there," Wagner said. "The opportunities need to be explored. There may be more opportunities open to us now than last time. We need to look into it."

Castor pointed out with the building cost and the current estimate of the partnership money, the district's match would be an estimated $6.3 million. The 4.7 millage would generate about $6 million. The land cost is not included in those figures.

"We need a true market study by an outside firm to look at it objectively," Wagner suggested. "It needs to include traffic flow, utilities, and location. A site that has utilities might pay for the land over a site that does not. It may not, but I feel we need to know."

Board members asked if the new high school facility would accommodate the projected growth.

"It would depend on if the growth has equal distribution between grades," Castor replied.

The board discussed how much net growth the new facility would generate. They discussed ways to avoid the same problem 20 to 30 years down the road.

"A split campus does not mean we will ever close this one," Veach said. "We still have some room here with no bricks and mortar if it is ever needed."

Board member Tracy Reinhart questioned if there would be room on the present campus if the district doubles in size.

"If the district receives the projected growth we will be dealing with the same issues, infrastructure, traffic flow, parking, space," Reinhart said. "We need to know how we can build if the millage does not pass."

"The first time the vote was close," Wagner said. "Then we picked a location and it failed worse the second time. Is it the money or is it the location? We need to know."

"We have had a good discussion with excellent ideas," Board President Danny Robbins said. "I heard comments of people voting no just because of the increase in millage and others voting no because it was off campus. We have brought out some very good reasons why there is a need to move the high school off campus. Tommy had a great point to get an outside group come in and look at the best safety and financial options. We have to get the vote."

"Voters have to know we are making decisions not for our own agenda," Wagner said. "Our presentation has to be different. It will take the whole community to pass it. Even if we had the money and the community was not with us it would not be successful. Let's make the right choice for the right reasons and come up with all avenues to fund it."

"A lot of people do not know Tipton Hall still has classrooms in use," Board member Anita Cole said. "The public needs to know about the facility commission report."

"I don't want to see people move here and go to school elsewhere," Wagner said.

Veach said for the sake of argument they need to let people know what a 120,000 square foot building would look like on this campus and what it would be 8-10 years down the road.

The board agreed to have an independent survey/study done on land acquisition, accessibility of roads, utilities and analysis of the project. If possible they would like to have it ready for the October meeting.

"I feel good about where we are headed," McCain said.

"I think we are on the right track," Robbins said.

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