School board puts East Campus repairs issue on back burner

By Bryan Richardson

The USD 383 school board on Wednesday tabled the issue of a Manhattan High School East Campus facility analysis.

The analysis will be conducted based on the recognition that MHS East has needs beyond the scope of the recently completed $97.5 million bond issue for construction and renovation of the district’s buildings.

Many elements of the renovation project were taken out during the planning stages of the bond issue in order to reduce the cost. The remaining issues include substantial amounts of asbestos in the building, drainage around the building, the building’s first floor and foundation, and the HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems. Overall, $4.3 million worth of work was done at the East Campus as a result of the bond issue.

The board was to decide whether the district could begin the process of finding a firm to conduct this analysis.

The movement toward tabling the motion started when board member Beth Tatarko asked whether the study should consider whether the building should be continued to be used for educational purposes. “What we’re talking about is how much money is going to be too much money,” she said.

Other board members agreed with Tatarko. Pete Paukstelis said there might be a benefit in constructing a new building instead of the maintenance that might be required to keep the current building running.

Darell Edie said he would like to avoid throwing funding into a “money pit” if that’s what MHS East is. “I don’t think it is, but I would like to know what the effects are going to be,” he said. “Is this worth 20 years or is it not?”

Walt Pesaresi, a member of the district’s facilities and growth committee, said the goal has been to maintain MHS East for at least 20 years.

“Hopefully with that 15-20 year time period, we’ll probably need a second high school,” he said, adding that a new elementary school would likely be needed before that time.

Board president Dave Colburn said a new high school facility is likely to happen as the district deals with its current growth curve after a time of declining enrollment. “You have to ride a couple of those curves and get some sense of what the long term is in your student population,” he said.

Associate Supt. Bob Seymour said he would rewrite the analysis parameters to the board’s liking.

The board’s talks about improvements to be made to MHS East occurred around the four-year anniversary of the bond issue being passed with 69 percent of voters approving it.

“Four years ago, we were all sweating and wondering if this was going to pass,” said Tatarko, who was board president during the bond issue development.

Now, the district’s construction team is overseeing the final items.

Universal Construction, the district’s program management firm, will have the final construction report prepared for the next regular board meeting, said program manager Trisha Brooke-Fruendt.

With the bond issue wrapping up, the board has been moving its focus to several issues such as school start times, open lunch at the high school and the MHS schedule.

Board members voted 5-2 Oct. 17 to no longer allow sophomores to leave for lunch starting next school year. They reiterated that decision Wednesday, with Pesaresi and Paukstelis dissenting. Both advocated that no students should be able to leave school for lunch starting next school year.

The school board had planned a senior early release hearing before the meeting, but nobody arrived to speak on that topic.

However, the board does have information from a parent survey on the subject. Out of 400 parents, 345 parents, or 86.3 percent, agreed with the statement that “seniors in their second semester at Manhattan High School should be able to continue enrolling in 5 or 6 classes rather than 7 classes.”

Last spring, 120 seniors took two periods of late arrival and/or early release and 79 seniors took a single period for late arrival or early release, representing 51 percent of MHS’s 383 seniors in the 2011-12 school year.

The board’s discussion is likely to be about whether students should have to meet more criteria to get early release or late arrival rather than eliminating the practice altogether. Current policy dictates seniors only need to be on track for graduation and have parental approval.

The board will make a decision on the issue at its Nov. 28 meeting.

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