October 10, 2006
B-H board allays transportation consolidation concerns; addresses B.H.S. humidity problems
More than two dozen residents turned out for Monday’s meeting of the Bluffton Harrison M.S.D. Board of School Trustees with concerns over an issue that was not on the agenda but is clearly a subject of concern in the district.
At a previous meeting of the board during a lengthy discussion of rising transportation costs, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Julie A. Koschnick suggested in the future that the district may have to take extreme measure.
Koschnick’s one sentence comment that the district might have to face consolidating starting times for all three schools with combined bus routes touched a raw nerve.
Koschnick said she did not think she was shooting from the hip when she made the comment; rather she was concerned that current cost cutting proposals may be placing too much burden solely on the high school.
Koschnick had suggested that the athletics department pay $5000 toward transportation, with the band paying $750, and the chorus paying $700. That proposal is on the back burner until at least December 1, when Athletic Director Steve Thompson will present the findings of a committee he has formed to review possible cost savings.
Sensing that the majority of those at the meeting were there due to concerns over Koschnick’s consolidation proposal, Board President Andrew Carnall opened the meeting by noting the matter was not on the agenda and would not be discussed on Monday night.
“Transportation consolidation is not on our agenda,” Carnall said. “It will not be discussed.”
Several bus drivers distributed letters to students asking parents to attend the meeting. Carnall said it was not authorized by the board or the superintendent.
Carnall noted under the present conditions consolidation would not be possible. “Logistically it can’t be done, numbers wise,” Carnall said. “Whether or not it would save us any money remains to be seen.”
Carnall said if the issue is to be discussed it will be way down the road. “It’s not coming up tonight,” Carnall said. “You will certainly know when it comes up. We will make it very public.”
Carnall said that if people had come out of concern for that issue they could leave. With those remarks about 15 people stood up and left the meeting.
At the close of the meeting Carnall responded to a question from a bus driver in the district in a similar manner, again assuring the public that any discussion of the matter will be well publicized.
“It is an issue of much public interest and we will make sure people know,” Carnall said. “It’s premature at this point.”
Board Member Gene Gerber expressed disappointment that the item received a headline in a previous issue of the News-Banner.
“It was mentioned as something we might have to look at, it’s unfortunate that it became a banner headline, it was a small point,” Gerber said. “It became a mountain out of a molehill.”
Following the meeting Carnall said the matter could be considered if it offered significant cost savings.
A consolidation of routes would reduce pay to drivers as they would be working less hours, but might increase the number of drivers needed and would likely require the district to revise their bus replacement schedule.
The board also discussed possible remedies to concerns over humidity in the high school and problems with the building’s present heating and cooling system.
Chris Smith of Siemens updated the board over the company’s proposal to add ceiling mounted HVAC units in the math and language arts wings. A similar unit was installed by Siemens in the science wing.
Siemens is also proposing changes to the programming sequences in the classrooms to help deal with a humidity problem
Smith said an energy engineer from the company has confirmed that the changes in the science wing have helped reduce humidity and made the wing more comfortable.
The classroom ventilator units will be re sequenced so that the cold water valve opens fully whenever cooling is needed and fans run only as needed. Presently the cold water flow begins as a trickle and raised incrementally, and the fans run constantly.
Smith said, “We’re confident that is going to help the situation there.” Smith said the proposed changes will give the system an increased ability to remove humidity.
Board Member Daryl Elliott said he would like to see a cost comparison if dehumidifiers were installed in the hallways instead.
High School Principal Steve Baker said he is concerned that the high levels of humidity pose long terms risks to the high school.
“It is my opinion it is affecting the high school,” Baker said. Baker said he is concerned a mold problem could develop which would be a long term problem for the school. Baker also voiced concerns that humidity levels are taking a toll on equipment, carpet, and furnishings.
“This is a very critical situation that needs attention now,” Baker said. “We’re going on seven years of battling a high humidity situation.”
On average the math and language arts wing are at a temperature of 75 degrees and are at 90 percent humidity.
Elliott expressed similar concerns as Baker. “We’re looking at a 6 year old school that has a problem already,” Elliott said. “The system probably wasn’t set up right to begin with.”
Elliot said he wants to look at the best interests of the school and the district. “Let’s look at the overall situation and find a solution now instead of ‘we think’ this will solve the problem.”
Carnall said he wanted to clarify that there is no indication of any mold in the building. “It is a concern of the future,” Carnall said.
Baker said, “We have found mold in the building.” Koschnick noted that the overall mold count in the high school is lower than the outside level.
Smith said that if left unchecked mold could become a serious issue. “The buildings that have the conditions that you have over time are more likely to develop mold,” Smith said. “At this point you have no issue to be concerned with.”
Carnall supported accepting Siemen’s proposed solution. “Let’s see how this works,” Carnall said. “That’s my thoughts on this.”
Director of Maintenance Gary Schwartz said the changes have helped in the science wing. “I think you can feel the difference when you walk in there from the other two wings,” Schwartz said. “In my opinion we need to move forward
No official action was taken last night on the issue.
In other business the board heard a presentation from Julie Tobias on last week’s Focus on Health program at the high school.
Two dozen organizations set up displays at the wellness oriented event and students were encouraged to visit each booth and write down a fact they learned from each exhibit.
The board approved an extension of a family medical leave for Gay Schoeff, which extends her leave to 12 weeks, ending on Dec. 6, 2006.
The board also approved a second student teaching role for Justin Reed, a student at
Reed will be student teaching at the elementary school. Last meeting Reed was approved as a student teacher under Jim Beuter at the high school.
A first reeding on a new Indiana Department of Education policy on graduation requirements was held. The policy states the district will observe state guidelines for minimum, core 40, and academic honors diplomas, and permits the board to establish additional requirements if necessary.
A second reading will be held at an upcoming meeting.
Koschnick noted that the board will be meeting in an executive session on Monday, Oct.. 16 from 6 to 9 p.m. to meet with a consultant on board governance.