Tuesday, November 25, 2014
C. J. Huff blog offers lowdown on search for administration headquarters
As you are already aware, following the disaster in May 2011, Joplin Schools was forced to relocate students and staff at a number of facilities. This September, we were finally able to move the last of our K-12 students from their temporary locations to permanent schools. In total, we have relocated school programming 18 times over the last 40 months.
There are only three temporary locations that are still in use. One is our Early Childhood program, which is located in trailers behind McKinley Elementary School and serves 220 preschool children. Another is Joplin Schools Administration Services located at the former MODOT building at 32nd and Duquesne Road. We are also temporarily using space at the former JHS 9-10 Campus for some of our performing arts programming. This will end by March 2015 when the performing arts section of the high school is completed.
The future locations of our preschool program and administration services have been the subject of much debate lately in the news and on social media. Today I want to offer some clarity on the move from MODOT. I will focus on our preschool program in another blog.
Prior to the tornado, administration services were scattered at locations across the district. The main administrative building was the Roi S. Wood Administrative Center at the corner of 15th and Connecticut. It sustained heavy damage during the tornado but was salvageable. However, to make room for our ninth and tenth grade students and staff, we also needed to clear out Memorial Education Center, which was home to several programs including our preschool, FLEX program, BEACON, Parents as Teachers, and Special Services. Without going into great detail, it was determined that since the Roi S. Wood facility was going to require a complete renovation because of the damage, we could make it a good fit for FLEX and Beacon. Meanwhile, the MODOT facility was generously made available to us by the Missouri Transportation Commission to be used as temporary administration offices. It was a larger space than we had at the Roi S. Wood facility, so we were able to bring all of the district administration services under one roof. Consequently, we were able to improve efficiencies. Of all of the lease agreements for temporary space that we signed, this building was the only one leased to us at no cost to the district. We will be forever grateful to the MODOT commission and their employees for the donation of the space during our time of need.
The three-year lease on the MODOT building ran out this past summer. Realizing our work to get our kids back into temporary schools was not yet done, once again, the MODOT commission and staff worked with us by extending the lease a few more months so we could focus on the rebuild of Joplin High School and Franklin Technology Center. Once we moved the students into the new JHS/FTC, conversations with MODOT continued as we tried to work out an arrangement to stay in our current location. Obviously, the building itself is a quality building, and for the right price, it might have been a good idea for us to stay where we were. However, MODOT has a responsibility to the taxpayers of Missouri as well, and we were not able to reach an agreement on a lease or purchase price. Again, MODOT realized that our recovery effort was not finished; we negotiated a $1,000 per month lease through the end of May to give us time to find a new home – once again, a very generous offer by MODOT. But the rate of $1,000 per month only lasts through May 2015. From that point forward, the lease rate would be a much higher commercial market rate.
At this time, a committee of parents, staff, and patrons is working through the challenge of finding a new home for administration services. We are looking at options that include other buildings in the community that might be reasonably priced or buildings owned by the district that may serve our needs in the short or long term.
A few folks have mentioned the new high school as a potential space. While the high school has ample space for students and staff and for future growth, there is not room for all of our administration services. In addition, the high school was not designed to serve as office space or as a space with regular visitors from outside of the school system. We have many other potential spaces in our district to consider – the high school is not one of them.
Finding a place for our administration services to “land” is a secondary project. We do not intend to let this distract us from our primary mission – finding normalcy for our kids and the staff responsible for educating them. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we continue to push forward as a part of our community’s long-term recovery effort. If you would be interested in participating on the long-range facilities committee or a sub-committee, please contact me at email@example.com. We would be honored to have you be a part of the solution.
Until next time,
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