After rejecting a motion to call a $1.4 million bond election Monday night, the Onalaska Independent School District’s board of trustees approved a plan to build a track and field facility using time warrants to finance the project.
At the start of the meeting Board President Ted Wiggins expanded the public forum section of the agenda to invite those in the audience to comment on the proposal which called for the track and field facility to be built at the Onalaska Junior/Senior High School campus.
Mathematics teacher and track and field coach Kenton Vincent, himself a graduate of Onalaska schools, related that over 50 students this past school year participated in various track and field events but had to train in parking lots and baseball fields, with long distance runners using the roads around town. He noted when the local athletes arrived at a track and field facility at another school, it was almost like stepping into a foreign country because they had no experience in the actual surfaces and conditions on which they were expected to perform.
Under the proposal presented Monday, the estimated cost was $1.4 million and one of the largest parts of that price is a requirement for 400 cubic yards of fill required for the base of the facility. During the discussion Polk County Commissioner Ronnie Vincent, said he be willing to talk to commissioners court to see if the old FEMA dirt site north of the school could be used for some of that dirt to lower the cost.
The track proposal was on the bond election in 2015 as a separate item and failed to gain voter approval by a scant five votes and that is why school board is revisiting the matter. The original bond request was for almost $900,000 for the project, but the large amount of fill dirt required is why this estimate is several hundred thousand dollars higher.
Bob Kingman of Kingman construction explained the location selected will make the facility compliant with the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) without the need for additional construction of any ramps or other extensive work.
Ron Greiner, a public finance advisor the district has used in the past, presented the option of funding the project through a program called time warrants with a 15-year payout at a cost of approximately $90,000 per year. He pointed out that for the last three years the district has had healthy fund balances ranging from $350-$650,000 per year and with continued good fiscal management, fund balances should continue to be placed in the reserves in the future years.
When Wiggins asked for consideration of a motion regarding the matter, board member Tom Curran made a motion to call for a bond election, which received a second and was voted down three in favor and four against.
Then a motion was made to construct a track and field facility and fund it using the time warrants program and yearly funding. That motion passed four in favor three against, with Curran, Russell Jones and Pablo Gallier of voting “no” and Wiggins, John Haynes, Brandon Smith, and Dennis Hodge voting in favor.
Superintendent Lynn Redden requested the board hire Jeremy Zimmerman, a professional architect who has been active in the track proposal project from the beginning and has offered his services at a reduced rate. The board approved this action, with Curran dissenting.
A motion was then made to employ Live Oak Public Finance, Greiner’s organization, to secure the funding for the construction project, which would include offering the project to local financial institutions. Greiner told the board he anticipates an interest rate below 3%. The board also approved this action, with Curran dissenting.
In other discussion Monday night, Junior/Senior High Principal Anthony Roberts reported summer school is comprised of seventh and eighth grade students who did not pass their required class or did not meet the standard on math and/or reading STAAR assessments. Starting June 27 seventh grade students who did not pass a class or meet the standards will begin attending summer school, and the end of course assessments will be given the week of July 11.
School officials are still awaiting the results of the STAAR seventh grade writing reading and math test and the eighth grade science and social studies. Once the results arrive they can determining what students will need summer remediation.
In addition to summer school, the campus has been hosting basketball and cheerleading camps and the FFA students have been attending numerous camps and conventions.
Roberts told the board that the graduation at the Polk County Commerce Center was the best he is ever seen. Over 1,000 parents participated and the students enjoyed a solemn occasion in a comfortable environment. Roberts said they are pleased to say they have begun to move into the new additions at the campuses and things are starting to come together. He said the students and staff are very thankful to the board and the community for providing such fine facilities.
David Murphy reported for the elementary campus where the summer school program is focusing on reading and math intervention and each student has an individualized accelerated plan.
The team of campus educators recently attended Dr. Randy Sprick’s CHAMPS training for proactive and positive approach to classroom management. Classroom teachers from kindergarten to sixth grade learned a lot about positive behavior support strategies and also now have ideas about how this program can systematically teach students how to behave responsibly in any school setting. The team will develop an action plan targeted at affecting the management practices campus wide, so that all students can feel and behave like champions, which will be implemented the next school year.
Murphy wanted to thank the summer school teachers who have given up there summer vacation to provide additional instruction and support for the Wildcat team. He especially named Laura Redden and Lisa Smith, for organizing and facilitating targeted professional development opportunities for staff this summer.
In other actions the board held a first reading of DNA local and DNB local, which pertain to the evaluation of teachers during the school year.
They approved bids for properties in Pine Harbor and Cedar Point that could be returned to the tax rolls after the other taxing entities vote on them. The minutes from the May 16 meeting were approved and the tax report reviewed with a collection rate of 92.7%, July 1 is when higher penalties accrue, so the rate will rise for the July report.