“We need to start this,” Yellow Springs Principal Terry Holden said Monday night, Feb. 28, during a special meeting of the school board.
Holden offered her brief but clear conclusion in response to a proposal initiated by newly elected board members Dorothy Bouquet and Judith Hampfling, which calls for the creation of a committee to study the costs and implications of gradual continuous improvement. plan repairs and upgrades to area buildings compared to costs and considerations associated with new or partial construction.
Since 2017, district leaders have tried to develop a facility plan that meets specific construction needs and is acceptable to the majority of the population, including facility modernization among the goals of the 10-year strategic plan adopted in 2011. Earlier, voters rejected two proposed plans in May 2018 and November 2021, respectively.
Holden said the need for construction is not disappearing: “We have to move.”
Council members agreed that moving forward to develop a plan for new facilities was more important than agreeing on the specific wording of the four-page proposal of the committee, unanimously voting in favor of the spirit of the document, noting specific issues for consideration by the committee after its creation. .
Originally on the council’s calendar as a working session, Monday’s appointment was changed after the committee’s draft proposal for new premises was first presented during the council’s regular monthly meeting on February 10; the change allowed council members not only to continue discussing the facilities, but also to hear comments from the community and possibly take action on the proposal, which they eventually did.
About a dozen members of the community attended the two-hour special meeting, which was also broadcast on the district YouTube channel.
Based on concerns expressed at a board meeting on February 10, in particular about the fact that the Treasurer and some others felt biased in favor of adopting a permanent improvement plan, the creators of the proposal, Dorothy Bouquet and Judith Hampfling, brought a revised document to the board. consideration Monday. After listening to their presentation, other council members, the district treasurer, the head and several community members responded, many of whom hoped the council members would be able to find common ground despite differing views on previous facility proposals and related inquiries. levying fees.
Bouquet, who, like Hampfling, was recently elected to the council, said she voted for each of the previous meeting requests. She said she teamed up with Hampfling, whose election platform included opposition to the latest rally, because she wanted to bridge the gap between the two camps and gather as much specific information as possible to provide “clarity for the way forward.”
According to their proposal, the goal of the committee on desired facilities is to “fully understand whether the Comprehensive Continuing Improvement Plan (CPIP) can meet our facilities for the educational needs of the school district in an economically and environmentally sustainable way.”
The purpose of the committee, which should include a mix of local traders and daily building users, is research, Bouquet explained.
According to the proposal document: “It is not an obligation to move on with this [CPIP] But instead it is gathering information, an investigative process that allows the board to make an informed decision as to how to meet the needs of the district. ”
The aim is to offer information from one of the CPIPs – which many members of the community claim has not conducted in-depth public analysis and discussion – so that the council can then compare it with previously presented options for facilities, including the proposed combination. reconstruction and new construction in 2018 and a new K-12 building plan presented in 2021.
“The school board, not the facility committee, will be responsible for making the final decision with the community to choose the option (or combination of options) that best suits our needs,” the committee said in a statement.
Board and admin answers
District Treasurer Jay McGrath, who spoke particularly loudly during a Feb. 10 meeting about his concern that the draft proposal seemed to be weighed in favor of a permanent improvement plan, was more conciliatory on Monday.
“I still think there are some assumptions,” he said, “but I’m open to all ideas.”
Board member Louise Bieri Rias said she felt most comfortable when thinking of the committee as a “feasibility study” option.
“We need to know if it’s possible. Is it possible for our district? ” she said. “Can we pay for it? Can we make the necessary improvements? Is that possible? “
Bieri Riois said she also wants to make sure that if the committee comes to conclusions about construction needs that differ from the results of previous site assessments, it will explain “how and why” these differences occurred.
As for preliminary assessments and conclusions, Superintendent Holden said she was “a little struggling” with the alleged implication in the proposal, “that everything that was presented earlier was incredible.”
Another concern of Bieri-Rios is the wording of the proposal to use 10-year forecasts for the number of students in determining the size of school buildings.
“I am aware of the potential politicization of enrollment and speculation about lower enrollment,” she said. “I do not accept an enrollment plan that does not include a place for our students to open enrollment.”
TJ Turner Chairman of the Board said he believes the revised proposal “was a much better product than the last one we saw [Feb. 10]». However, while he saw “a lot of good thoughts,” he didn’t “quite see the plan,” he said. But there was enough to get to work, he concluded.
After the discussion of the council, six members of the community spoke, and most expressed gratitude for the council’s efforts to listen to society and look for a new option for the district.
David Roche, a local property inspector, said he was pleased to hear from the district.
“It’s nice to see new faces, a fresh look and a completely different attitude,” he said.
He also urged the district not to forget to include increased maintenance costs and materials in its calculations when determining future projected costs and potential fee requests.
“I like that you’re listening,” said Chris Hamilton, a county father who served on the task force in 2019-2020, adding a warning: “Don’t let the ideal be the enemy of good enough.”
Matthew Kirk, another district parent, noted that Yellow Springs are not unique in their need for new school buildings. He said he believes past evaluation efforts have led to good conclusions, and the longer the delays in the area, the more expensive the work will be.
“Maybe we can trust a little bit of people who were before,” he said.
“I am encouraged by signs of hope,” said resident Scott Fife, adding that he believed past efforts were clear and transparent, but he appreciated the council’s work to restore trust among those who felt otherwise.