BIC holds public meeting in Leachville
Buffalo Island Superintendent Gaylon Taylor was pleased to inform the patrons attending the Thursday, April 30, public meeting of the approval of partnership funding up to $11,110,439.96 for the construction of new school buildings. He had received the announcement just hours before the meeting held at the East campus cafeteria in Leachville. It was the second public meeting held to discuss the district's May 12 millage election. The first meeting was held on the West campus in Monette April 23.
Taylor said if the proposed 9 mill tax passes, the state will give the district (depending on the final size and cost of the project) up to $11 million.
"If the bids come in at $140 a square foot the state will pay $8.9 million. If the bids come in higher the state will pay more but our part will also go up. To receive partnership funding the millage will have to pass or the money will have to be returned," Taylor said.
He went on to say if the millage does not pass the cost of bringing the buildings up to code will have to be made. All of the cost of bringing the buildings in compliance will have to be paid by the district.
"We don't know what the cost to bring our buildings up to compliance would be until we get into it," Taylor said. "It is something we will have to do."
"If we are not moving forward, we are going backward," Taylor said. "I beg and plead with you to help make this happen for our students."
Taylor went on to talk about the accomplishments of the students including the journalism department receiving over 13 national awards; FFA program growing beyond leaps and bounds; soccer team started; at least 10 students in the junior and senior high competed at the local, regional and state level in the science program; and much more.
"Our goal is to make every program we have the best it can be," Taylor said. "If the millage fails, look at all the spending we will have to cut to get the buildings in compliance. We have spent $300,000 on technology over the last two years. If the millage fails there will be no extra money for computers. This is not a scare tactic, I will have no choice."
Taylor said the school is growing.
"We started last year with 794 students," he said. "The board and the district set a goal to stop the bleeding, stop the dropout rate and we finished the year with 794 students. This year I checked two weeks ago and we have 816 students. We will receive about $100,000 in growth money."
He talked about the 30-person committee who worked on a new proposal following the failure of the first millage vote. School board members recommended two people against the millage and one for the millage to serve. The members looked at the reasons the millage failed. Reasons included patrons not wanting the schools taken out of the towns, highway safety issues, taxes, and some felt the land the district inherited should not be traded to build a new school.
The committee came up with the proposed recommendation to build new facilities on both the Leachville and Monette campuses. The west campus in Monette would house the junior and senior high school students and the east campus in Leachville would house all kindergarten through sixth grade students.
Taylor said if the millage passes all construction has to be approved by the state.
One gentleman said BIC had a great faculty, is in the top percentage in academics, good buildings and a declining enrollment. Another guest expressed his concern on raising taxes and making a hardship on the elderly.
One couple said they wanted the best for their children and a reason for them to want to grow up and stay in the community and raise their children there.
The junior high principal talked about the condition of the junior high building.
"It is not great, it is not even good," he said. "My teachers, staff and students have to fight water every time it rains. My teachers work hard. They recently received $17,735 for academic achievement. They could have taken that money and given themselves bonuses. Instead, they decided to take the money and purchase 30 Chromebooks and 10 Kindle Fires for the students. Those Chromebooks arrived, we put the boxes in the library and when we came to school the next morning, water was three inches deep. You should have seen our students working trying to dry off those Chromebooks. Fortunately, they all worked. Our kids deserve better. I have spent five years in the building and we have to deal with the water issues every time it rains."
Another elementary teacher talked about the difficulty he had with the mandatory computer testing with the present wiring.
Several more comments were made for and against the millage increase, one commenting nine mills is too much.
Architects John Mixon with Cromwell and Hardy Little with Little Associates presented proposed building designs. The K-6 building would be built around the current junior high. The proposed junior and senior high building is a two-story facility with junior high classrooms on the first floor and senior high classrooms on the second floor with a district/community auditorium to seat 500.
"We are trying to meet the needs of our kids," Taylor said.