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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Discussion begins on early education

  • Early childhood education will likely be on the ballot in April 2015 in some form, and school administrators are reaching out to the community to assess attitudes.
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  • Early childhood education will likely be on the ballot in April 2015 in some form, and school administrators are reaching out to the community to assess attitudes.
    "It's time to get the discussion going," Superintendent of Schools Dr. Aaron Zalis said at Thursday night's Rolla Board of Education meeting.
    Zalis presented a slide show that will be available on the school district's website.
    That slide show explains how early childhood education fits into the goals and mission of the school district, how district patrons view the quality of early childhood education services, why early childhood education is important and some possibilities for the future.
    Board members and administrators visited early childhood centers at Jefferson City, Nixa and Branson in October and November.
    From those visits, they have settled tentatively on two choices, either a new facility that would hold classrooms for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten pupils or a remodeling of one of the elementary schools into an early childhood center and reconfiguration of other buildings in the district.
    Zalis stressed in his presentation that no decision has been reached on which path to choose. No decision has been made to change an elementary school into a pre-K and kindergarten building.
    Right now, it's all conceptualizing, all theorizing, all consideration of possibilities, all a bunch of "ifs."
    If building a new facility is the option settled upon, that would require land and construction to construct a facility that would serve 170 4-year-olds with half-day programs and before and after-school options. In addition, all current preschool programs and kindergarten would move to this facility.
    Land acquisition would likely be $700,000. The cost of a new facility would be $11.2 million. Additional staffing would cost about $1.3 million.
    If the option for reconfiguration is settled upon, that would require remodeling, moving of students and construction of an addition at the high school.
    This option would also serve 170 4-year-olds with the same programs and care options and the moving of pre-K and kindergarten programs to the same building.
    Additional staffing would cost $1.3 million, and there would be a cost of $12.7 million to add a ninth grade addition to the high school.
    In the reconfiguration, the two remaining elementary schools would become first- through third-grade buildings, the middle school would be for fourth through sixth grade and the junior high school would be for seventh and eighth graders. The ninth grade would move to RHS.
    Zalis showed plans for an auditorium and classroom addition that would fit into the master site plan.
    The cost for either option is about the same, and Zalis figures the levy required would be 30-cents per $100 assessed valuation. Half of that would be for construction bonds and half for operation.
    Such a levy would raise a homeowner's tax burden by $65.55 per year, based on a $115,000 home. For a business with property valued at $320,000, that would be an increase of $307.20 per year.
    Page 2 of 3 - Zalis said again that no decision has been made in any regard. He has been speaking to luncheon clubs and other groups, showing the slide presentation and taking comments.
    In other action or discussion:
    • An early childhood special education position was added. It will be a four-day-per-week position.
    • The board approved a three-year membership renewal in the Missouri United School Insurance Council. The board also approved payment of $452,142 for 2014 coverage of property and equipment, general liability, buses, school board liability, worker compensation and treasurer's bond.
    • The 2014-2015 Course Description Book was approved following a presentation by Assistant Superintendent Craig Hounsom who reviewed dropped courses, added courses and a new online course.
    • On the consent agenda, the board approved support staff changes, a substitute teacher list, transfer of funds, surplus property for sale and obsolete property for disposal.
    • To reflect changes in state statute, the board approved a revised policy regarding the reporting of child abuse/neglect and its investigation.
    • Iqra Choudhry, student adviser to the board, made her final report to the board. Another student adviser will be sworn in during the January meeting.
    • Superintendent of Schools Dr. Aaron Zalis updated the board about the work being done on the school calendar for 2014-2015.
    • All bids for a walk-in freezer were rejected.
    • The board talked at length about school-parent communication.
    • Zalis expressed sympathy for the families of two faculty members. Zalis extended condolences to the Rolufs family on the passing of history teacher Mark Rolufs and the King family, on the passing of Tim King, husband of Technology Director Ginger King.
    • The Monthly Board Report from the Missouri School Boards Association was watched via streaming audio.
    • The board met in closed session before the open meeting to act on personnel student and real estate issues.
    School transportation dept. honored
    School bus driver Donald Lewis was recognized by the Rolla Board of Education Thursday night for his driving skills that protected a busload of children from an accident this fall.
    In related discussion, the work and safety record of the school transportation department was highlighted in a presentation by Assistant Superintendent Kelly Hinshaw.
    Lewis, who was ill and not present at the meeting, avoided an accident with a tractor-trailer that overturned on Interstate 44 and skidded across onto Martin Spring Drive, where the bus was traveling. Lewis maneuvered out of the way, pulled over and stopped.
    He has been reported in local and metropolitan media and was honored by the Rolla Police Department.
    At the Thursday night meeting, the board watched the "bus cam" video of the event.
    Page 3 of 3 - Hinshaw said the transportation department has 70 employees trained in safety. They drive 64 buses. There are 45 daily routes, plus hundreds of activity trips during the year.
    The buses travel 500,000 miles annually.
    Buses recently received a 100 percent score in a random safety inspection conducted by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
    "Mr. Lewis did a wonderful job," Hinshaw said. "All of our drivers do a wonderful job of protecting children."
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