Location of the proposed new elementary school dominated discussion at Monday night’s school board meeting. After extended discussion, the board voted unanimously to designate the current location at Lincoln Elementary School as the preferred site to build, subject to an approved site plan.
“There are pros and cons to each site,” said superintendent Greg Ebeling. “I think the passion in the community is to leave the building on the Lincoln site, and I think we have to listen to that passion. I can’t come up with enough reasons to go against that support for the Lincoln site.”
Building a new elementary school is one component of the proposed school bond issue that will be placed before voters on April 2. Other components of the project include significant renovations and expansion to the high school including an arts addition, athletic renovation and/or addition, administrative addition, and renovation of the commons area plus the construction of a career academy building in partnership with DMACC which will be used by Pella and Pella Christian students to receive dual credit in nine career areas as well as additional safety and security enhancements to the high school, middle school and Jefferson. An overview of the project including the tax implications is available on the school Web site at www.pella.k12.ia.us.
Board president Joan Corbin encouraged board members to engage in a broad conversation on the potential location of an elementary school prior to the vote.
Ebeling outlined many of the consideration and the two primary potential locations: building a new school on the Lincoln site and building on existing school land next to Madison Elementary. At this time, there is no compelling reason to move to the other (west) side of town.
“I am recommending to build back at the Lincoln site,” said Ebeling. “With community feedback, traffic is an issue and moving to the east side will not guarantee a solution to traffic problems. Another this is that it is unusual to have two buildings replicating spaces, side-by-side, but not connected.”
Each school board member was asked to share their thoughts and position on the issue. As members talked, each indicated support for the Lincoln site.
“I am a strong supporter of keeping it at Lincoln,” said Timothy Trip, board member. “But I appreciate the concerns presented by a parent on the issues of safety and playground availability.”
Corbin indicated that both of those issues are being addressed by administration.
In other school business, the board voted to approve the proposed 2013-14 school calendar with school starting on Aug. 20. Spring break will coordinate with both Central College and Pella Christian Schools. Graduation is scheduled for the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend.
The board also voted to approve a swim agreement with Newton High School. Currently the Pella High School shares the girl swim team program with Newton. Beginning in 2013-14, the boys program will also be shared with Newton. This year, the Pella boys traveled to Ottumwa for a shared swim program.