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Monday, Sep. 1, 2014

Possible bond issue discussed

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Committee studying the need for future R-6 construction projects

SIKESTON -- A citizens group has begun efforts to study the need for future construction in the Sikeston R-6 School District as well as solicit feedback from the community.

On Wednesday, the district's reformed Citizens Advisory Committee met for the first time. About 35 parents, school officials and community leaders were present for the meeting at the Alternative Education Center.

"What we would like to use this committee for this year is to give background and history of the construction of the R-6 district," said Superintendent Steve Borgsmiller.

The committee reconvened at the request of the current Board of Education which wanted advice and ideas from the community regarding local educational needs, Borgsmiller said. The last time a committee convened was seven years ago, he noted.

The biggest issue of the meeting was discussion of the district's facility needs and possibility of a bond issue proposal in April 2010.

"A lot of you might be thinking: 'Why are we talking about this? We're probably in the most financial stress we've had in my lifetime,'" Borgsmiller said.

But the process to file a ballot issue takes time, Borgsmiller said.

"We have certain groundwork in place so if the Board of Education decides to go forward with a bond issue, the plans are well vetted ideas and we can say how it's going to happen -- and most importantly -- how much it's going to cost me, the taxpayer."

The district started planning the 2005 bond issue proposal for building the Math and Science Center in 2002, Borgsmiller said. From 2002 to 2004, a consultant who had no ties to the community was employed by the district to look at programming and building needs.

Through that data, the consultant suggested the district's needs were at the elementary and high school levels. The district conducted a series of public meetings and the possibility of making a single-site elementary, Borgsmiller said.

"As a part of this, we hired an architect who took all the information from the consultant, looked at that, and then did some of their own inspections and came back with basically the same suggestion," Borgsmiller said.

The board started moving down the road toward a single-site elementary. They talked with the land owner who has the vacant land adjacent to the Kindergarten Center, and he agreed to give the district a certain amount of acreage, Borgsmiller recalled.

However, the No.1 issue was traffic because Salcedo is the only major road to get to and from the school. And making a single-site elementary would increase enrollment from about 300 children to 1,500 students on one campus, Borgsmiller said.

A traffic study was conducted and a single-site can work there, Borgsmiller said, adding a single-site has many benefits from a management standpoint.

Because of the high school's campus concept, it allows replacements to be done in increments if the public wants so the board moved forward with the Math and Science Center in 2005.

"The school board discussed the status of the district's buildings: Do we follow the past directions of our consultant and go elementary? Or do we do something else? That's what board of education is running through our minds," Borgsmiller said.

Location is another issue to consider since two-thirds of the 3,500 students in the district live south of Malone Avenue, Borgsmiller said.

Borgsmiller proposed the idea of four consecutive five-year bond issues from 2005 through 2020, which would result in $50 million for the district.

"How much can we build with $50 million? I can tell you this, we cannot replace every building in the district for $50 million," Borgsmiller said.

Nearly 600,000 square feet of building currently houses Sikeston R-6's students, Borgsmiller said. The money would replace about 300,000 square feet, which could include all the elementary buildings and the entire high school campus excluding the Field House and the Math and Science Center, he said.

The Fifth and Sixth Grade Center and Seventh and Eighth Grade Center, which together are about 145,000 square feet, wouldn't be able to be replaced, he said.

If buildings aren't replace, then they will continue to age, Borgsmiller said. The acceptable life span and usability of a building is 50 years, he noted.

"What I'm suggesting is the R-6 schools can never get out of a building plan. If you take a look at what we did in 1984 (when the current Seventh and Eighth Grade Center was built) with exception of adding eight classrooms to Kindergarten Center in 1995 we didn't build new building until the Math and Science Center,"

Borgsmiller said he's not trying to scare anyone; the intent is for the community to start thinking about its educational needs.

"We just have to take a look at this as a community," Borgsmiller said. "As go the public schools in Sikeston, Miner and Morehouse, so goes the community of Sikeston, Miner and Morehouse."

Lisa Miller, whose three children attend the Kindergarten Center, Lee Hunter and High School, said she agreed to be on the committee because she wanted to learn more about the school district.

The only way to do that was to attend the meeting, Miller said, adding she didn't realize how old some of the district's buildings were.

"It's pretty interesting. We've got to do something about it," Miller said.

Parents asked to think outside the box

SIKESTON -- Sikeston R-6 School District needs its parents and community members to think outside the box.

Superintendent Steve Borgsmiller said the district has an opportunity to access money from the Lay Family Foundation of St. Louis.

"This is a foundation that has helped other school districts in Missouri and Kentucky. They want some ideas; they don't want you to hire people to get the ideas," Borgsmiller said.

The foundation aims to help provide students other opportunities that they wouldn't have otherwise. It also seeks to assure the school district makes better use of some of the services they're already providing to the students, Borgsmiller said.

For example, the foundation recently assisted McCracken and Marshall county public schools in Kentucky by providing $620,000 to help more average students pursue college. The schools joined forces with Paducah Junior College Inc. and the foundation to implement a Middle College on the campus of West Kentucky Community and Technical College.

District officials will meet with a foundation trustee in December. Anyone who has ideas about ways to improve students' learning opportunities should contact Borgsmiller at the district's Central Office.