At the Oct. 30 Dexter Community Schools Board of Education meeting, concerns were raised by community members regarding the new elementary school project.
In Part 1 of this article, you can read the transcript of what people had to say during the first public participation segment on the evening’s agenda. By rule, the Board is not allowed to enter into discussion with statements made during public participation.
Later in the evening, the Board was considering a motion to begin the earthwork for the new elementary school. The discussion portion of this motion gave the Board a chance to respond to the concerns that had been raised earlier.
Here is the transcript of Board member Dick Lundy’s and Board President Michael Wendorf’s response. Parenthesis have been added for clarification purposes where necessary.
“I think for purposes of discussion it’s important to put this in the context of what’s happened in the past, how we got to the point we’re at. I think people need to understand why we’re on the timeline we’re on.
“At the same time I think there’s a difference between the priority of the groundwork that needs to be done and some of the concerns that folks have expressed here tonight.
“One of the things that I thought during the earlier presentations from the audience was that we ought to try and schedule a meeting this week where interested folks can come in and people can see the amount of work that’s been done both from folks in the community and professionals we’ve hired. Most, if not all of the issues, might be allayed.
“I think the problem is that in all the projects we’ve done I guess that I don’t really remember getting this level of interest from community members about an isolated part of a bond issue. And I guess that’s our fault for not figuring that out and asking folks.
“On the other hand, we elect Board members to represent the community and we go through a pretty detailed and lengthy process with professionals both inside the system and out to get where we’re at. And we do have some aggressive timelines because we think it’s very, very important for the students in this district to have a new K-two school open at the end of next year.
“And so this is really driven by that.
“At the last facilities meeting, we probably spent more time talking about the athletic facilities than everything else put together and that’s for multiple reasons. One is that we talked a lot about how we’re going to handle the transition while construction is going on. We don’t want to cut out any current activities that are going on within the school activity programs or the community activity programs. And so we’re working very hard to have plans that address them.
“The first goal is to not have any lack of resources for current activities. The second thing is that when we’re done, to have better and more facilities for all the things going on in activities. We recognize that the school district is really the recreation facility for the entire community. There is nobody else that provides the opportunities with physical resources or programs that are going on here at the schools so that is a very high priority to address community needs and do it in a way that is quality and in the long term is going to be an improvement.
“We’ve gone through, and if you looked at the initial plans when we were doing bond application, we showed three grass fields going in to provide new facilities over south of the High School. As we’ve gone through, we’ve had discussions amongst ourselves and with professionals like Beckett and Raeder (architects).
“We’ve come to the conclusion that we would be far better served by putting in two really good artificial turf surfaces which we think we can do for about the same number of dollars and presumably make those multi-multi-purpose. One of the goals is to have that in place by next Spring so that next Summer we will have enough facilities to continue all programs going on. (There has been a) tremendous amount of effort and thought in all this. I think we’re pretty well aware of the different programs going on.
“I think that you would probably be very pleased if you could see the detailed plans so I think we really need to create an opportunity as quickly as possible and if there are issues with that, it may be something that can still be addressed.
“But if we really want to take advantage of timelines and effective costs, we need to get started on the new elementary school.
“We had some novel ideas of where it was going to be placed back when we (started working) with the professionals Beckett and Raeder and others from the TMP (architects). We went through and shifted things a bit, changed things around because we know that we can learn from other folks. I think that we would be hard pressed to think that Board members or probably community members in general are going to figure out how to do design work better than professionals.
“I think the legitimate thing is that questions are asked and legitimate answers are given. I think we can do that and need to do that.
“Our primary mission is that we try to keep our eye on is educating children who attend our schools and we are currently over one-hundred-percent of capacity in those (elementary) grades and we have a very urgent need to complete the construction of the new K-one through two building.
“I know the process can be frustrating and at times to appear lacking transparency but also we struggle to determine how we can more effectively communicate with our parents. I have personally attended three question and answer sessions open to the community. Dr Timmis has run at least seven.
“And I hear the challenge, “Well the plans seemed to have changed.” Well yeah, that’s the collaborative nature of the process. And if we haven’t done as good a job as we could to communicate those changes step by step and make them easily accessible, that’s a fair criticism, but we need to get moving on the new K-one through two building
“Is there room for any further collaboration on the playing fields? I don’t see why not, but I feel like we’ve been open to that from the very beginning.”