Following the Newton school board's recent decision to move forward with a construction at-risk management delivery process for the proposed bond issue, Gravity::Works architect Vince Haines came before the board on Monday to address the next steps of the process and commend the board for that choice.

"It's an excellent project delivery method and, I think, probably very appropriate for the projects at hand in Newton," Haines said.

As part of the process, qualifications were due to be submitted to USD 373 by Sept. 27 — with eight companies sending in their information for the project. A short list of three to five finalists was then to be selected by Oct. 10.

Considering election day is fast approaching on the heels of that projected timeframe, Haines came before the school board on Monday to request a revision to the schedule. Part of that, he said, was to guard against the construction at-risk process causing any confusion in regards to the bond information that is currently circulating.

"We have time," Haines said. "We can take this time to make a selection after Nov. 7 so that both of these processes can be very separate, and clearly so."

Rather than create the short list, it was noted that a revised schedule would be drafted and sent out to those eight companies. Part of the schedule also includes the formation of an ad hoc committee to help make the eventual short list for construction at-risk management.

The committee is intended to be made of two board members and three citizens, with scoring criteria (also presented by Gravity::Works) to be used in appointing the construction at-risk management company. Haines proposed appointing that committee at the next board meeting on Nov. 13.

On top of the scoring criteria, there is a time-consuming interview process committee members have to be ready for as well. All the while, financial information will be submitted to both USD 373 and the state, with final figures being released upon the completion of interviews — all on track for the committee to make a recommendation at the first meeting of 2018.

Haines noted the architects and USD 373 could hold off on finalizing that contract because of all the other work that will need to be done following the results of the bond vote.

"There's a lot of preplanning involved in the process that doesn't actually involve the construction manager," Haines said.

Questions were raised about what criteria should be considered when selecting committee members from Newton citizens, but potentially more pressing is the matter of significant turnover on the board that will occur in January 2018.

Currently, three members of the board are not seeking re-election — meaning three new members will take office in January. With that caveat taken into consideration, Haines was all for extending the schedule by a month before the committee makes a final recommendation.

"Because of that, you may want to push this to a February selection," Haines said.

Ultimately, the board approved the revised schedule as outlined in regards to hiring construction at-risk management for the bond project, with the exception of February being selected as the new target date for a final recommendation. Additionally, the board approved the formation of the ad hoc committee and the general scoring criteria, as provided by Haines. He noted he would circulate the revised schedule immediately following Monday's meeting.

Superintendent Deb Hamm also suggested the board start considering who it would recommend as citizen members of the committee.

In other business, the Newton school board:

Heard public comment from Newton Recreation Commission board member Tim Marlar to table an item regarding employee wellness benefits until there is a legal review. Hamm noted there was, leading the board to approve the wellness benefit program and become a corporate sponsor to the Greater Wichita YMCA.
Received updates from Sunset Elementary on project-based learning, district kindergarten teachers on the kindergarten readiness initiatives being implemented around Newton, the next steps of the school redesign project from Santa Fe Principal Jen Smith and the Newton National Educations Association on contract negotiations.
Approved Employee Assistant Consultants as the employee assistance program for the district to help staff members deal with overwhelming personal issues.
Learned of a revision to the district's new volunteer background check policy, which would open up background checks on all adults attending field trips regardless of whether they have any previous presence in Newton schools or not.
Accepted the donations of eight Miller DeWalt welders from BMG of Kansas for the NHS ag-welding and automotive programs, $1,000 from Maureen Entz of Shalom Mennonite Church to aide with tech fees for NHS studetns, two $500 donations from Wal-Mart for district schools, a total of $5,000 from James and Barb Stucky to cover travel expenses for the spring 2018 NHS jazz trips, gaming systems from Harvey County United Way and Owing Bonding Company for adaptive P.E. programs at NHS, $2,300 from the Central Kansas Community Foundation for heart rate monitors at Sunset Elementary, $200 from Midway Motors for SPED sensory room supplies and $312 from Koerner Heights Church to help offset background check fees at Sunset.
Received notification of intent from Walton Rural Life Center to change its mascot from a wildcat to a ram.
Heard a request for USD 373 to act as a partner organization in the community mural project, with representative Constance Goehring stating the plan is to generate funds through CKCF and start work next semester — with NHS art students likely working on one projected mural.
Was informed of progress on some important paperwork, including efforts to digitize paperwork for new employees through Frontline Education, as well as screeners filled out by Head Start for governance/leadership and health/safety. The screeners are necessary for Head Start to be awarded funds, with no ares of concern reported.