While no final decision was made, nor expected, on the future of Walton Rural Life Center during a meeting of the Newton USD 373 Board of Education meeting Marcy 13, that future was on the minds of many sitting in the audience — and the members of the public who chose to speak to the board
“The community has helped shape that school, and the school has helped the community,” said John Esau, a former board member who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting. “That is something that is import to remember. I appreciate you putting the bond off a bit. We have to gather more information if we want to be successful.”
District administration chose to postpone a decision on the bond issue after the board voted last month to make an attempt for a bond election in May. For that to have happened, the board would have had to at least set a dollar figure Monday.
However, a commissioned demographer’s report studying population throughout the district has not been completed, and the board has several options to evaluate in relation to school alignments and locations.
Some options include keeping a school in Walton, while others do not. Some options could mean realigning the middle school grades, while others do not. To date, renovations to Newton High School have been identified as the top need for the district. A solution for Walton was identified as the second greatest need.
The school has grown in enrollment over the past 10 years since becoming an agricultural based charter school. Currently the school makes use of temporary classrooms and a building in need of at least renovation.
Kevin Greishar of DLR group, which has facilitated much of the strategic planning of the board for nearly two years, told the board that with some community meetings and discussion a proposal could come before the board in early May.
“This is not a meeting for the board. Input from the board at those meetings at this stage is not what we are looking for,” said Dick Koontz, president of the board of education. “We are looking for input for the community.”
A decision could be made by the board May 8.
District administration will host a series of meetings, with a select group of community members, teachers and others in the months of March and April to work through some of those priorities and issues. Those meetings are tentatively scheduled for March 29, April 5, April 12 and April 19.
“These would be four meetings to talk about education in facilities and what those facilities should look like,” Greischar said. “… In reality the recommendations come from the community.”
Members of that meeting group are not finalized, though several members are known — namely those who have been part of previous committees and some who have stepped forward in recent weeks.
Greischar said a phone survey of the community could be part of the process in the next two months.
“I am in favor on the direction that we are going,” said board member Tim Hodge. “… I think this will help move us forward in an objective and fact based manor.”
In other business the board:
• Newton NEA gave a report. Meetings between teachers and the board were discussed, bond discussions and the election of NEA officers.
• Heard a presentation by Santa Fe 5/6 Center.
• Approved a bid of $47,756 for a new box truck from Midway Motors.
• Approved a bid of $50,073 for carpet and tile replacement from Hesston Decorating Center.
• Approved a bid of $86,400 for resurfacing the track at Newton High School bid from Beynon Sports of Hunt Valley, Maryland.
• Approved student fees for the 2017-18 school year. The only changes from the current year are adding Newton High to the technology fee schedule due to the 1:1 initiative that will begin in the fall, an increase of $3 to the Chisholm yearbook and an identification card replacement fee for Chisholm.
• Approved an amendment for an interlocal agreement for the Newton Revitalization Area.
• Approved the renewal of contracts for Greg Dietz, Brian Becker, Melinda Rangel, Bobbi Jo Grieb, Jennifer King, Jenifer Smith, Jana Bohling, Amy Wells, Tenae Alfaro, Jan Plummer, Debbie Watson, Jason Chalashtari and Sara Livesay.
• Approved the renewal of contracts for Sheila Wendling, Director of Instructional Services ; Brenda Thompson, Director of Technology; and Reagan Seidl, Director of Special Education for Harvey County Special Education Cooperative.• Accepted a donation on behalf of Newton High School of a Chevy 235 engine and trailer valued at $500 from Chuck Mueller to be used by NHS students in the automotive pathway.
• Accepted a donation of $1,613.75 on behalf of Santa Fe 5/6 Center from Farm Bureau to be used for admission and travel costs for a fifth grade field trip to the Zoo.