• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

School facility needs, summer enrichment discussed

A Woodford County Board of Education work session on school facility and maintenance needs evolved into a discussion about summer enrichment opportunities for students and an expansion of a summer feeding program. School board Chair Ambrose Wilson IV and board member Sherri Springate were not satisfied after hearing an initial plan to bring summer enrichment and feeding programs to students at Northside Elementary. "We have a one-day-a-week (reading) program all ready to roll at Northside every Tuesday (for six weeks) - all through June and July," said schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins. "And then we'll be taking out sack lunches on that same day." He said Midway's library has a plan to provide sack lunches on Thursdays. "I'd just like to see a summer enrichment that's more than just one day a week for a couple of hours a day," said Springate. She preferred a program that offers enrichment to students - three, four or five days a week - with a feeding program in conjunction with this summer enrichment. "If we really want to make a change and a difference and a dent in (reducing) some of the novice numbers that we're seeing (at Northside Elementary), I just feel like that (a summer enrichment program is) ... a good opportunity," said Springate. Staffing a five-day-a-week summer enrichment program at Northside would likely be problematic, according to Hawkins. "We struggled to find workers when we ran the reading program at Huntertown the last two summers...," he said. After further discussion about the need to offer enrichment opportunities for Woodford County elementary students to help prevent the "summer slide," Hawkins agreed to explore the possibility of offering students - from all four elementary schools - a summer enrichment program at one location, with transportation provided. "We'll see what we can come up with," he said. Hawkins also agreed to ask Food Service Coordinator Courtney Quire about the feasibility of trying a summer feeding program at Northside, when asked to do so by Wilson. Currently, the school district's summer feeding program is offered only at Simmons. An effort to expand the program to Woodford County High School was unsuccessful because of low participation numbers, Hawkins said. Chief Operating Officer Amy Smith began Monday's work session by providing school board members with a list of possible uses for capital outlay dollars available for facility and maintenance needs. Purchasing a new bus lift system (estimated cost of $150,000) and bleachers for Simmons Elementary School (estimated cost $60,285) were identified as priority needs. The gym bleachers at Simmons Elementary are not large enough to seat its entire student body. It's the only school in the district that does not have sufficient capacity for all of its students. The aging bus lift at the district bus garage was listed as a priority "because it could go at any time," said Hawkins. "And that's what our (maintenance) folks use to work on our buses that travel thousands of miles..." A portable bus lift, which was purchased for $25,000 a couple of years ago as a backup, is not used to change oil or doing other maintenance work. It does lift a bus sufficiently to change tires and do brake work, according to Smith after her conversation with transportation Director Kay Tegethoff. Two other facility needs - door hardware and front office nursing/toilet facility upgrades at Northside and Southside elementary schools to comply with ADA requirements - were cited by Springate as "my priority." Plans are already in place at both schools to address the medical needs of students with disabilities, Hawkins said. He said Northside and Southside, which met ADA requirements when constructed in 1992, do have wheelchair-accessible rooms to handle first-aid needs of students with disabilities. The board agreed to ask Smith for a better cost estimate for making ADA upgrades to the front office nursing/toilet facilities at Northside and Southside elementary schools. In addition to having $351,798 in capital outlay funds, the board has $339,304 in its building fund, $23,850 in dollars remaining in contingency funds from previous construction projects, and $74,000 from the sale of its former Community Education Center (repurposed as an apartment building by its new owner), which are available for school facility and maintenance projects. The board has historically allocated capital outlay funds to upgrade facilities and address maintenance needs at school buildings and grounds - a total of $2.325 million since fiscal year 2013, according to information provided by Smith.

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