WORTHINGTON — With less than three months to go before Independent School District 518’s special election, the Board of Education’s committee members discussed whether to adopt a sense motion that would tell taxpayers the district won't use its lease levy authority unless in emergency situations.
The sense motion would provide information about what the school board would intend or want to do regarding a specific item. The wording of a sense motion would provide others with the intent of the school board.
In its draft form, the sense motion — which superintendent John Landgaard said was a recommendation by the referendum support committee — indicates the district wouldn’t use its lease levy for facility construction without voter approval. The draft language states it’s contingent upon passage of the first and/or second intermediate school questions on the Nov. 5 ballot.
The first ballot question pertains to a grades 4-5, 600-student-capacity intermediate school for a bond of $29.7 million. The second question is a grades 3-5, 900-student-capacity intermediate school for a bond of $36.7 million.
“In my view this is strictly the intent of the current school board,” Landgaard said of the sense motion. “It’s not to make any decisions for a future board.”
During discussions during both the instructions and operations committee meetings, members expressed understanding of the motion’s intent, but weren't immediately convinced it’s a good idea.
“I just don’t want the wrong person to get a hold of this and rip it apart and use it against us,” said instructional committee member Adam Blume.
Operations committee member Joel Lorenz said he doesn’t believe the board uses its lease levy authority unless necessary as it is.
“I don’t want to tie our hands so that we can’t use it when we need to,” he said, adding that it wouldn't be necessary if residents passed a building project.
Operations committee member Mike Harberts said he doesn’t favor the sense motion.
“I think it confuses things,” he said, adding that he’s concerned about how it may affect future boards — regardless of the explicit mention that the sense motion only applies to the current board.
Steve Schnieder, who also sits on the operations committee, agreed and said people may interpret its meaning differently.
Landgaard said whether a sense motion is adopted by the board or not, it's not his intent to recommend using the lease levy for a major construction project.
“You can do the same thing without making a motion by every board member sharing their intent,” Landgaard said.
No recommendation was made by either committee, and the board is expected to further discuss it at its regular Tuesday meeting.
Also related to the upcoming referendum was Tuesday’s operational committee's discussion about the potential to commit an additional $3 million to the first intermediate school question on November’s ballot.
The potential is based on an anticipated $2 million more than expected in the district’s fund balance, which would bring the balance to approximately $6 million. Less expenditures and increased enrollment is leading to the additional money.
That fund has not yet been audited. Landgaard said he doesn’t expect the audit to be completed until November.
The operations committee will recommend the $3 million commitment for full board approval.
Crisis management plan
The instructional committee heard a report of updates made to the district’s crisis management plan. The plan, which hadn’t been updated since it was created 12 years ago, is a comprehensive document intended for District 518 staff that includes emergency contacts and building-specific plans for a variety of crisis situations.
The committee discussed whether the plan should be disseminated widely on its website, but didn’t favor it, citing the potential of getting it into the wrong person’s hands.
Parents will have opportunities to discuss the plan at the upcoming building open houses and will have access to a PowerPoint presentation and flier.
“We’re not trying to hide anything, but we want to make sure it’s informative and not more dramatic than it needs to be,” said Allison Eitreim, who updated the plan as part of an internship project.
Landgaard added that the district has received inquiries over the last several years about its preparedness.
“Parents want to know we’re doing something,” he said. “They don’t necessarily want to know the details of what we’re doing. … We have a plan, and we are out in front trying to get that organized.”
Eitreim said the staff has been receptive to the document, which she believes to be a good indicator of how the public would feel.
The committees also heard a construction update on the Worthington Learning Center and Gymnastics facility along north Crailsheim Road.
Landgaard said they’re getting down to the wire with school just around the corner. The target completion date is Aug. 26, which is the first day teachers are back in session.
“We should be OK,” he said. “The worst case scenario is we’d delay the start of the ALC a couple days, but that’s not the plan.”
The gymnastics team plans to move into the new facility beginning Friday. The building, however, will not be usable until all inspections and official occupancy has been completed.
Other facility updates shared this week included the tennis court resurfacing project, Trojan Field and middle school track surfacing project.
Landgaard reported that a crew completed resurfacing the north tennis courts just in time for girls tennis practice. The south courts are being resurfaced this week.
The middle school track project is also scheduled to begin this week and completed by the end of September.
Bids are expected to be let for Trojan Field in September with possible demolition beginning as early as November. The cost, Landgaard reported, will likely be more than $4 million due to constructing an appropriate field house and storage.
The operations committee will recommend splitting the cost of Bud’s Bus Service’s $57,403.26 in reported lost income caused by nine snow days (five of which were made up electronically). The recommendation will result in a reduction of $28,700 from the district’s contract with the busing service to help cover their fixed expenses.
Harberts inquired if the company planned to compensate its drivers for the lost days if the district pay half the company’s lost income.
Darla Fritz of Bud's Bus Service said they’d like to pay the drivers something, as they’re hard to come by.
“I’d like to keep them happy,” she said. “For some of them, nine days is a huge chunk of money.”
Schnieder recommended the board consider possible contract changes to address e-learning days, which the district utilized for the first time during the last school year.
The full board will meet at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20 in the Worthington High School Media Center.