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Passage of R-6 school bond would fund needed building

Sunday, April 3, 2005

(Photo)
Sikeston High School students walk down a hallway in E Building.
SIKESTON -- Ongoing sewer problems, an insufficient heating and cooling system and leaking ceilings are just some of the obstacles facing the Sikeston R-6 maintenance crew at the high school's math and science building.

On Tuesday Sikeston voters will have a chance to put an end to the school's maintenance woes when they consider passing a $4.53 million bond issue for the construction of a new math and science center.

"We've just tried to keep it painted and clean and as neat as possible," said Terry Bryant, Sikeston R-6 maintenance director, about the existing facility. "It's just been a matter of fixing and repairing continuously."

Bryant said there are many infrastructure problems with the school's current math and science building, which is also known as E Building.

"There's not enough airflow volume as far as putting air into the classrooms, and it's just because they're older units. They won't meet today's standards," Bryant said.

Wires have been mounted on the surface of the walls because of the contained asbestos -- which hinders workers from fixing anything, Bryant said.

"There are so many areas we can't fix because of asbestos in the area," Bryant said. "And, regardless, that would have to be removed, and we wouldn't have the space to do the proper work anyway."

Also, leaking gas lines have been vacated and water stands on the building's old-style flat roof, Bryant said.

And students notice the building's problems, too.

"It's run down, obviously," said senior Erin Bell as she glanced around the math and science building.

Bell recalled the aftermath of a recent sewage problem in the math and science building.

"The hallway was flooded and we couldn't use the bathrooms for a couple of days because the sewers were backed up," Bell said, adding she thinks the school needs a new building -- even though she won't be there to enjoy it.

The math and science center proposed consists of 33,000-plus square feet and includes 24 new classrooms, a biology lab and a chemistry lab. In addition the building will be used as a ninth grade center.

High school science teacher Wanda Throop noted one of her main concerns with the current math and science building is its extremities in temperature. It's cold in the winter, and hot in the summer, she said.

"When a child is freezing, they can't learn," said Throop, who brings in space heaters during the winter to keep her classroom warm.

Currently students in grades 10-12 attend classes in the math and science building. If the bond issue passes, the ninth graders will take all of their core classes -- math, science, social studies and communication arts -- at this center and will already be on campus for their extracurricular subjects like physical education, music and art.

"We need a good facility where the students have a safe and comfortable environment so they can learn," Throop said.

The passage of the issue would mean an approximate 19-cent increase to the current tax levy of $3.25. So, for example, a person who has a home with a market value of $100,000 can expect to pay an additional $36.50 a year in taxes.

"It is a minor increase in taxes and a major help in the math and science fields, which are so competitive," Throop said.

In addition to the current chemistry and biology labs being separated from the classrooms and located across campus, they're also deteriorating, Throop said.

"The bottoms of the cabinets are falling out from the termites, and the fume hood has fallen off," Throop said about the labs.

But Bryant noted termites are a problem in all of the facilities. "We have to continually fight termites on campus. We took an old shop building and turned it into a chemistry and biology lab."

Bryant continued: "And it was the only place we had at the time, but these are temporary fixes and not something that needed to be permanent."

The termite infestation is treated, but it will be a continuous battle with the older buildings, Bryant said.

Should Tuesday's issue be successful, the current junior high facility will become the fifth and sixth grade center; the current middle school facility will become the seventh and eighth grade center; and the site of the alternative facility will be relocated from its current location on Moore Street to the current Fifth Grade Center.

Estimated completion of the construction of the math and science center is the second semester of the 2006-2007 school year, and the relocation of grades 5-9 would be the opening of the 2007-2008 school year.

A four-sevenths super-majority of votes, or 57 percent, is needed for the issue to pass.

Throop, who has been teaching for 30 years, said: "Our students (at Sikeston) do well in college and in their careers -- and we want to help them even more."