BIC holds public meeting

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Buffalo Island Central School District held the first of two public meeting Thursday, April 23, to gather input from and give information to patrons concerning the district's May 12 millage election.

BIC hosted the first of two millage meetings April 23 at the BIC West Elementary cafeteria. The second meeting will be held Thursday, April 30, at the Leachville campus.

BIC is asking for a 9 mill increase to fund building a new K-6 grade facility in Leachville and a 7-12 grade facility in Monette. The district asked voters for a 9 mill increase last year to build a combined school on Highway 18 but that measure failed.

BIC superintendent Gaylon Taylor started the meeting off by sharing with attendees some of the many accomplishments of BIC students and faculty this year.

"I want to start on a positive note," Taylor said. "I'm very proud of our students and faculty. Now let's talk about why the millage failed 60/40 last time. It was probably personally one of the most difficult days of my life. After it failed we looked at the reasons."

Reasons included taking the schools out of the towns, safety issues on the highway, taxes, and some felt like the land the district inherited should not be traded to build a new school. Taylor said the district took this feedback and formed a community education committee. Each school board member recommended two people against the millage and one for the millage to serve on that committee. Others from the community were chosen to form the approximate 30 member committee.

"Most of the committee members are here tonight," Taylor said. "I want to thank you guys and gals for serving."

What came out of the community educational committee was a recommendation for two campuses that would bring together elementary in Leachville and junior/senior high in Monette. The new proposal solves most of the district's issues plus allows schools to stay in both towns.

Architects John Mixon and Hardy Little talked attendees through the two proposed building designs, which are not final. Input from the meeting will be used to help finalize design plans for the two campuses.

In Leachville a new K-6 grade building would be built around the current junior high. The center section of the facility will house the school's library, half court physical education area, and a cafeteria that will double as a safe room.

Because the project now includes two campuses, pre-K was cut from the design plan so the district would keep the elementary building to house that program. By doing this the pre-K program would be moved out of the mobile classrooms into a safer structure and would have room to grow with no additional building cost. The junior high on that campus would be torn down but the gym at Leachville would stay to be utilized as a practice space for the elementary basketball program or would be given to the city. This facility would feature covered drop off area and would be single story.

In Monette the proposed new 7-12 facility would bring junior and senior high together in a two story building with junior high on the bottom floor. This facility would feature a district/community auditorium that would seat 500 people, a central entrance, full court physical education area, cafeteria, library, labs and classrooms. The bottom floor would be used as a safe area for this building. On the Monette Campus the superintendent's office, bus shed, fine arts building, and Mustang Athletic Complex would all remain. This facility would be built in front of the current high school with the high school being torn down later.

Some attendees asked about the time line for these two projects. Taylor said the district would know Wednesday (April 29) whether or not the project is funded. If the project is funded and voters pass the proposed millage increase May 12, the projects would go out for bids at the first of year 2016 with ground breaking in the summer and completion approximately 18 months after that. These two projects would be done simultaneously.

Others wondered about the bus routes. Taylor said this project would force the district to offer city routes, which it currently does not provide. He feels no route would be over 45 minutes and hopes to have students at school by 7:30 a.m. One attendee asked about elementary music and art, which Taylor said would have space in the new building.

One meeting attendee asked if there would be seating in the high school physical education area so it could potentially be used for elementary games. Taylor said that was a possibility. He then explained the financing for the project. He said the state would pay 48 percent of the costs for a 123,000 square foot project designed to hold 794 students. The district has 817 students and is proposing 142,000 square foot project. The extra square footage would accommodate the district's current population and allow for future growth. That additional square footage would be paid for by the district through the millage increase and bond issues. The estimated cost is $140 per square foot for a total cost of $19.929 million.

One attendee asked if the building would be adequate for technology. Taylor said yes and the design is to build for technology, not just now but 10 years in the future.

Others asked what would happen if this measure fails.

"I know people don't want higher taxes but you can't build a school for our kids without raising them," Taylor said. "Regardless of what happens we are BIC and we will have school no matter what. In the last two years we have spent $320,000 in technology to help our students and teachers to be successful. All technology spending would have to stop immediately and so would all auxiliary program spending. Our state facilities inspection shows our buildings need repair that have to be done by the end of the year if the millage does not pass. All monies would be focused on that because we have been asking the state to wait and they won't anymore."

Those repairs include fire alarm systems for East, West and junior high campuses, exit lights for all campuses, emergency lights for all buildings, fall materials for the playgrounds, junior high water flooding problems and all the paneling throughout the district has to be removed.

"These things have to be done within a year," Taylor said. "The fire alarm system is $40,000. Everyone knows the problems and the money has to come from somewhere. We can't fix buildings and add technology."

Some citizens talked about the $18,000 the district is paying teachers who have to travel that would be saved while others talked about the convenience of having students together. While some were undecided others felt the proposal was the best option.

"Whether this passes or not, let's stay civilized," Taylor said. "This is for our kids. If it fails our kids are the ones that lose. My plea is let's get this passed so we can continue our momentum and push our kids forward."

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