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At the May 18 Geary County Unified School District 475 virtual special Board of Education meeting, discussed multiple topics including the review of the Heavily Impact Aid requirements and updates to the Administrative handbook including to the early retirement option.

The first topic of the meeting was about the Heavily Impact Aid requirements for the district to requalify for up $60 million in aid to improve upon the needs of the district.

David Wild, chief operations officer, presented on a potential 10-year plan for facilities in the district to reduce expenses.

“We’re looking at Junction City schools,” Wild said. “We all understand that the district has been very good about enhancing the Fort Riley schools. The (Office of Economic Adjustment) approved the Jefferson Elementary replacement. The oldest school in the Fort Riley inventory will be Ware elementary at just over 30 years. So, now, it’s time to start turning our attention to the in-town schools.”

He said the first part of the 10-year plan the district would have to do a needs assessment of the schools outside of Fort Riley, putting an emphasis on the schools that are being underutilized.

“We could consolidate those schools,” he said. “I think with our district, it could be easily done if we have a planned approach, we could not impact personnel, we would utilize attrition of personnel to absorb any school changes that we might consider. And we would start busing students to any gaining school. So, if we decide to close the school, we could redirect those existing students to other schools via the bus program. And then those schools that we decide we to close, we could either place them in a warming status to be brought back online later, or we could go ahead and close them, lease them out, sell them off.”

Continuing to the mid-term goals of three to five years, he said, if the district were to requalify for the aid the district would need to start planning and designing a new elementary school in Junction City that would be on 17 acres located in the JC Land Bank. He said he has been talking with the city of Junction City and other who say they are onboard with the initiative.

“We sat down at the table and we’ve looked at three options with a Kaw Valley engineering,” Wild said. “We selected a site that we think would best be suited for us. Kaw Valley, once given the go ahead, if we really desire this, would begin working towards that objective. We would utilize an existing grade school design. Seitz Elementary is the one that we want to consider because of its size and capacity. And then of course, I think we all recognize that pod structure.”

In the long-term goals of five to 10 ears, Wild said the construction of the new school would happen.

“After acquiring the land from the city,” he said. “We would start schematic design in the year 2023 construction documents of the same fiscal year. We would actually physically start construction in 2024 and have the school ready for occupancy in 2025.”

At that time, he said, when the new school is opened, the district may want to again look at closing or warming additional grade schools

“So we would be looking at over the course of this time closing or putting in warming status anywhere from one to four grade schools around the district” he said. “Depending on what we determined the need is and what might suit the district requirements, we’d also propose consolidating the early childhood program into one existing grade school.”

He used the example of the new Jefferson Elementary on Fort Riley will be the hub for early childhood development on the installation and he proposes a similar model in the city with a grade school being converted entirely to early childhood.

Dr. Reginald Eggleston, district superintendent, talked about qualification for the aid and why it was important.

“We want to ensure that our students have mastery of academics,” he said. “That is our top priority is to ensure that all of our students continue to receive a quality education. We want to maintain high standards, high standards of performance from all adults, as well as of our students and we want to also ensure that we have a safe and orderly environment for school to take place in. So those are the non-negotiables, so to speak, when we talk about any strategies that we may find ourselves wanting to reduce or increase upon during the discussion.”

Another topic discussed was the administrative handbook updates. The biggest topic about the handbook being the early retirement option.

“This is the topic that has been really one that has had some emotion surrounding it,” Eggleston said. “But one that I think based on the facts that we now have, we’re in a more in a much better position to have conversation about it.”

He said there were recommendations made on two options for the option.

“The first was to discontinue it this year, which, just by sentiment, a board member said ‘No, it’s too soon, it doesn’t give our people an opportunity to really think through long term what’s best for them.,’” he said. “The next option was to consider maintaining what we currently have, and then considering using funding. In order to continue to manage that some board members were like ‘no, we don’t want to interfere with the cost of living raise that board that our principals would receive.’”

He went on to summarize an idea he presented to the board for the early retirement option.

“If the board wants to continue a conversation about the early retirement option that we consider discontinuing at the end of next year, grandfathering in the 11 individuals that have been part of our concern, so that those individuals will be taken care of,” he said. “And then from that point on, offering a $15,000 … incentive for those individuals who retire and have been with the district for the long haul.”

Concerned about the verbiage in the proposal, he said his main concern was about making sure personnel are taken care of.

“It just needs to make sure that it captures the intent and what we want to accomplish, and more importantly, how we want to reward individuals who have committed themselves to our district, but yet at the same time, we know that we have a practice that we do need to address. And so that’s the reason for I believe, why the request was made for us to have additional conversation about this.”

Before the board moved to executive session, Eggleston thanked members for their presentations over the Heavily Impact Aid topic.

“I do want to say thank you to Miss Fredericks and Mr. Wild for the presentation that was made pertaining to heavily impact aid. I do want to put out some calming news. Nobody’s talking about closing any schools right now. What we’ve done tonight is actually talk about long range planning. So, I don’t want anyone to be saying, ‘Oh, my school is going to be closed’ or anything of that nature. That’s not what this conversation about. The conversation is about the district posturing itself to be considered for requalified for those heavily impact aids, and heavy impact ad dollars. Once we receive those funds, we do need a plan of action as far as what to do with those funds. And when we talk about Equity when we talk about providing opportunities to all of our students, I think considering building a new facility for students is definitely something for the board to take in consideration. … We will continue to do everything in our power to maintain the facilities that we have, as well as continue to work toward requalified in the very near future, so just want to put that out there so that it doesn’t cause any alarm with anyone teachers or anyone in the community. But I think our students throughout the city deserve a fine facility, something that state of the art that they can be proud of.”

After returning from the executive session, with no other items to discuss the board moved to close the meeting. To view the entire virtual meeting visit the Geary County Schools USD 475 Facebook page.

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