Seven things to know from G-R school board

SAVE petition, use of Mid-Iowa Coop, bond referendum discussed

Sun Courier File Photo

1. During the Thursday, Sept. 15 meeting of the G-R school board, the district’s new transportation director Mark Stubbolo introduced himself and provided an update. Part of Stubbolo’s report included temporary bus parking in Gladbrook this winter. Stubbolo is currently working with Mid-Iowa Cooperative to use the company’s now-shuttered office/scale facility in Gladbrook. Buses could be plugged in during the colder months and restroom facilities would be available for the drivers. The only cost to the district would be utilities. A continuing thread in the conversation with Mid-Iowa, Stubbolo further shared, is the company’s possible interest in donating or selling at cost the site to the district for a future bus barn.

2. Under New Business, the newly-renamed Gladbrook-Reinbeck FFA Chapter’s out-of-state field trip to the National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis from October 26-29 was approved by the board along with the use of a school vehicle. The board made the decision to pay for the FFA members’ registration fees and travel expenses using the G-R FFA Activity Fund, while the chapter’s Friends group will cover the food expenses.

3. No action was taken yet on the petition submitted to the board requesting an election on the proposed issuance of approximately $8.25 million in school infrastructure sales, services, and use tax revenue bonds (SAVE bonds).

A resolution to issue the SAVE revenue bonds was adopted during the board’s August 18 meeting.

During discussion on the matter of the petition, Supt. Erik Smith described two possible options the board could take – place the petition on an upcoming election (March or Sept.) or rescind the resolution entirely.

If the resolution is rescinded, the board could restart the process over again – complete with a public hearing – in order to rework the resolution’s language to be more specific in light of the $23.6 million bond referendum failing earlier in the week. Specifically, board members discussed addressing HVAC work, accessibility issues at both schools including the addition of an elevator at the JH/HS, and the remodel of the elementary offices and entry.

A decision must be made on the petition before January 20, Smith shared, in order to comply with election law for a March vote.

4. No action was also taken on an agenda item addressing an elementary sidewalk addition. The district received only one bid – from Peters Construction – for the project which would involve pouring 225 feet of new sidewalk on the north end of the elementary school property in order to connect the two drives. The bid received was for $17,703. Smith recommended moving forward with the project highlighting the district’s duty to provide a safe thoroughfare for students during drop-off and pick-up. Discussion took place regarding undertaking an even longer sidewalk project, as well as dropping the project altogether. The decision was made to send the project to the building and grounds committee for further discussion.

5. An upgrade to the Industrial Technology building’s electrical was approved by the board unanimously. Two bids were received for the project work which involves expanding the welder capacity of the program. Currently, all eight welders cannot be run at once. Ventilation for the electrical upgrade is already in place, Smith shared. Bids were received from Konken Electric and Henninger Electric. The bid package (two bids combined – $27,064.96 and $13,722.22) from Konken was approved

6. Under Supt. Smith’s facilities report, the recent failure of the bond referendum was discussed.

“With the bond vote failing, we have to make a decision on what’s next,” Smith said before continuing, “We all understand that there are still needs that need to be addressed.”

Smith said the district cannot legally hold another bond referendum until September 2023.

“As we went through the first process and learned, we know there are definitely some things we can do a lot better,” Smith said. “Some things that we can do to improve the clarity of the bond, the clarity of the ballot, the clarity of what we’re going to do.”

Smith then asked the board for their thoughts on the direction the district should take moving forward. It was generally agreed by the board the district should work toward another bond referendum but that the project needs to be more focused and the community more fully included in the process.

Board president Donovan Devore said messaging around the vote needs to be more “crisp” before later stating he believes what was taken to the voters “obviously wasn’t the right thing.”

The board advised Smith to reconvene the facility study committee for further work and then follow those meetings up with a school board work session.

7. Supt. Smith shared G-R’s initial enrollment numbers for the 2022-2023 school year. Certified enrollment is looking to be about 614, Smith said, down slightly from last year’s 616. The number of ‘kids in seats’ is also down a bit from 470 last school year to 461 this school year.

The next regular meeting of the G-R school board is set for October 20 beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the G-R JH/HS Commons in Reinbeck.