Options on how to best deal with space constraints next year at several elementary schools and the middle school were discussed Monday night at the Washington School Board meeting.
Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer shared her concerns about the need for more classrooms at Washington West, South Point, Marthasville and Clearview schools, as well as Washington Middle School. She also presented possible options at each site for the board to consider.
VanLeer said she will have a formal proposal for the board to review at its February meeting.
"I just want to start the discussion because I sense some people don't see the urgency and these are issues we will be dealing with next school year," she said. "Whether or not Prop I passes, we will have to address these space needs."
In April, district voters will be asked to approve a $65 million bond issue with a 46-cent property tax increase which will be used to construct new facilities, including a new elementary school and middle school, make renovations and improve technology districtwide.
Among the options presented Wednesday night are acquiring more modular trailers, discontinuing certain programs, moving art and music into regular classrooms, boundary changes and having larger class sizes.
VanLeer noted some of these options will have to be implemented even if the bond issue passes because construction of new buildings would still be two to three years out. And if the issue fails some of these options would remain in place for a long time.
Leasing modular trailers will cost between $5,000 and $8,000 per trailer and that does not include ground prep costs, the superintendent said.
"That is very costly and it's money that could be used on instruction," she said, "and it's only a short-term fix."
The district already leases modular trailers for its early childhood special education program, which are set up on the Washington West campus.
Options were broken down by school based on early enrollment projections.
At Washington West, school officials are projecting the need for three sections of kindergarten and fourth grade, and if that happens the school would be two to three rooms short.
Options for West include moving the gifted (challenge) program into a modular trailer; moving the preschool classroom into a modular trailer; having the art teacher utilize a cart and using a regular classroom, which would occur during that regular teacher's plan time.
VanLeer said she doesn't particularly like any of the options. She also noted that music class at West is currently held in the school counselor's office.
South Point School also needs up to two classrooms, VanLeer said, due to need for another first-grade section and possibly kindergarten next year.
Currently, there are no available rooms, she said, and already due to ADA compliance issues some classrooms have to be shuffled when accommodations need to be made for students in the basement classrooms.
Modular trailers are under consideration for regular classrooms, as well as computer/library space.
Due to the school being in a floodplain, the trailers would have to be set 2 feet above flood stage, VanLeer noted, adding that the buildings and grounds director is doing some research on that issue.
Other options are boundary changes to shift part of the South Point population to Labadie Elementary or having larger class sizes.
The school will need additional classrooms to accommodate another section for fifth and sixth grade, each of the next two years.
Putting a modular trailer at the school is one option, VanLeer said, as well as having music and art utilize the regular classrooms during a teachers plan time, larger class sizes and putting the library on the cart so that space could be used as a classroom.
Due to high kindergraten enrollment, three sections may be needed next year, VanLeer said, and currently there are no available classrooms.
Options under consideration include discontinuing the preschool program at this site or relocating preschool students to modular trailers or another location.
Again, the art and music teachers would be pushed into regular classrooms.
VanLeer said the middle school will need to convert a health education room to a special education classroom, and the teachers will have to travel to open rooms for lessons each class hour.
"Basically they would be sharing a room with another teacher which may be during their lesson plan time," she said.
Another consideration, the superintendent told the board, is the best location for trailers if the bond issue passes and construction gets under way, specifically at the Washington West campus. The new early childhood center would be built at the West campus..
Board member Scott Byrne said South Point might be the better location and programs consolidated there as needed.
Diane Brunworth, board member, said based on the information presented it looks like the district will have to lease trailers at some sites for several years.
Several board members said assumptions will have to be made in planning since enrollment numbers are never known until after school starts. Passage or failure of the bond issue also plays into decisions, they said.
"I think we'll need two plans," said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Brendan Mahon. "Plan A if the bond issue passes and Plan B if it doesn't."
And either way, some of these options will have to be implemented beginning next year, school officials said.
VanLeer said it's important that board members take all options into consideration so they can direct school officials appropriately.
"These issues are real and problematic," VanLeer told The Missourian.
The plan to be presented in February will be specific to location of modular trailers, buildings where teachers will need to travel from room to room, and boundary adjustments throughout the district.
"The plan also will need to be reflective of whether Proposition I passes or fails," VanLeer said.
"I want quality learning environments for kids," she said. "This is my charge as the leader of this district right now. It is important for us all to realize that money spent on modular trailers is money that we don't have for instruction. This is something we need to think seriously about both in the short term as well as the long term."