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District reviews needs in updating master plan PDF Print E-mail


• Leader & Times

Prioritizing projects was the priority of the USD 480 school board during a recent special meeting Monday evening. 

After approving an invoice from the City of Liberal for sewer connection to MacArthur Elementary School for $66,868.38, the board moved on to talking about potential future projects as part of discussion regarding the district’s master plan, facilities and how to use the remaining bond funds. 

“As part of the bond campaign in 2013-14, there were some preliminary steps that have already been taken that, in reality, are the beginning of the master plan,” Superintendent Renae Hickert began. “An analysis of the facilities, the needs, the budget ... and this was all done in 2013-14, at the time to determine our needs for the future. Then before the boundaries were drawn, the next thing was the demography study, and we had that done right before the boundaries. So we have two of the things we need in a master plan, we’re already there. So, what other steps can we take? If you really want to have your facilities connect to education of the students, you need to talk about what are the educational needs of the district. And there are some things we’re going to be doing this year that will tie right into that – our curriculum alignment goal at the secondary level with the individual study plan so the students going in, that’s going to tell us a lot at the secondary level about what direction our students want to head as far as careers and what they need to do to reach that.”

The second part of that, Hickert said, will be the completion of a needs assessment as part of the new accreditation model, which has to be done this year. Hickert added the district will also be part of the Kansans CAN redesign program, which will also see a lot of work this year.

“We’re going to be taking the lids off the buildings, so to speak, and ask what are the educational needs of our students, of our district, to help in moving forward?” Hickert said.

The board then spent some time looking at some charts and graphs related to a potential performance plan that will go in hand with the district’s master plan. 

“This is something that was done several years ago where they committed to some facilities’ energy efficiency improvements, and the money that was saved from that was used to help pay for the upgrades,” Hickert said. “That’s how that would work. Then our last step is to pick priorities. We know what our learning needs are, we know what the projects are, so how do we pay for it? Part of the master plan is a performance contract, and the best way to put that is it’s a financing mechanism through energy savings. The contractor guarantees savings outcomes, which should be enough to help with upgrades.”

“The district did a performance contract with Johnson Controls, and changed a few things, including our lights, and that was done the summer right before Cottonwood and Sunflower came into existence,” USD 480 Director of Business Jerry Clay said. “So that next year, when we added the square footage of Cottonwood and Sunflower, our utility bills did not increase due to the savings through just the lights.”

“It is estimated the performance contract would help fund about $1.8 million to $2 million worth of energy savings,” Hickert continued. “And the thing about those performance contracts is their contractor guarantees those savings, and if they don’t meet them, they’re out that money.”

Hickert then talked about some factors that could be part of a performance contract, including heating and cooling systems, lighting, and windows and doors, among others. Hickert also emphasized nothing was up for action during this meeting, but rather “food for thought” for the board members to consider. After Hickert’s presentation, the board then spent several minutes ranking district project priorities based on a list from Hickert of project ideas that had come up in the past, such as demolition of old buildings, windows and doors, and carpet work, among many others. The board was reminded again none of the projects were up for action, and after the ranking was finished, several minutes of discussion took place about the more highly prioritized projects before coming to a close.

“If we’re going to do any of these, we’ve got to have data we can depend on being accurate,” Board President Steve Helm said. 

“And we’ve got to have the right people gathering that data,” Hickert added. 

Clay then gave the board information about the funds available for these projects. 

“Cash balance as of today was $9,188,284. You just approved $66,868.38 to be paid to the city, so that leaves $9,121,416,” Clay began. “We have $138,000 worth of PCI’s still in the process that haven’t gone through yet. In talking with Peter [Mychalczuk] this afternoon, we believe there’s about $142,00 worth of things still left in the district that haven’t been completed, a lot of that being at West. Then we’ve asked for ... we feel we’ll need some help installing the cameras at West and the district, and the cost given to us for that was about $200,000. So after all that, the total is $8,641,000 left for whatever projects we prioritize.”

Discussion continued in this vein for a few more minutes before addressing some issues not included on Hickert’s list, such as storm shelters, which had come about as the result of the severe tornado that hit Joplin, Mo. around the time discussion of the bond campaign was taking place. 

“We’ll explore the storm shelters, we’ll float this around, we’ll get you more information about the performance plan,” Hickert said. 

“This is a great way to earmark some stuff and get those discussions going,” board member Matt Friederich added. 




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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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