The Beatrice Public School Board of Education discussed agenda items relating to the district’s elementary facilities, potential energy savings and its strategic plan, among other topics at its Committee of the Whole meeting Thursday night.
The board again discussed what it deems as "crowded" and "aging" elementary schools and potential solutions that involve changing the use of the buildings, moving students and renovating.
Those options will be presented to the public at an informational meeting at 7 p.m., on July 6 in the Beatrice High School Commons. The four elementary school buildings will be open for tours from 6 to 6:40 p.m., prior to the meeting.
“I encourage people of the community to go through the schools and see those 25 desks in one room,” board member Doris Martin said, speaking of the classrooms’ tight spaces. “They need to see that.”
The BPS board and administration encourages the public to attend the forum in order to further understand current dilemmas relating to the elementary facilities and to answer in a survey which presented solution they favor.
A major goal for the board is to move all preschoolers into one building by the start of the 2017-2018 school year. Currently, the 3- and 4-year-olds are taught at three locations.
All of the options the board and administration members have discussed involve converting one of the elementary schools into a preschool and relocating that school’s kindergartners through fifth graders.
The district proposed last year a $34 million consolidated elementary school for all preschoolers through fifth graders of the district. The measure was turned down by about 60 percent of voters in September.
The board will vote at its June 13 meeting on two of the items discussed on Thursday: the district’s draft five-year strategic plan and replacing lighting in district buildings with more energy efficient systems.
Dave Villines of Johnson Controls and Joe Rice of Innovative Power Solutions explained to the board options for new LED lighting in the middle school, high school and administrative building after completing an audit of the buildings’ energy efficiency.
Villines said the two companies assess schools across the county and, in his 30 years, BPS is one of the best well-maintained districts he’s seen. The only place the companies could find wasted energy was in its lighting.
“It’s not a maintenance issue; it’s just dated,” Villines said. “Fluorescent lighting is dated. New LED bulbs use half the energy and operate with the same number of lights.”
The new systems could feature motion sensors and dimmer switches.
The first option would replace most lights with a higher end system with more control options. The project would cost about $737,000 and would save the district $56,000 or more annually.
The second option requires less labor and offers fewer control options. It would cost about $570,000 and would save the district about $45,000 annually.
BPS Director of Business Affairs John Brazell said his personal goal would be to pay off the project loan in 10 years rather than 13.
Villines and Rice said that if the board approves one of the options in June, the project would take four to eight weeks and could be completed this summer or in the evenings during the school year. They said the annual savings are guaranteed and the lighting would be under warranty for five years.
BPS Director of Curriculum Jackie Nielsen reviewed with the board the draft strategic plan that would guide the district for the next five years. The plan was devised by the strategic planning team consisting of BPS staff and community members.
The plan lists action steps to take in order to meet specific results named under four different strategies.
The strategies include creating innovative learning experiences, exemplifying a culture of character, strengthening mutual engagement throughout the community and providing accommodating facilities, infrastructure and technology.
Nielsen also gave the annual Multiculturalism Report, which detailed how BPS staff in every building facilitated various cultural lessons, discussions and celebrations during the 2015-2016 school year.
BPS Director of Special Education Beth Cordy-Hookstra and BHS special education instructor Roberta Lineweber presented to the board a report on its Choice Program, which teaches life skills to BPS graduates, ages 18 to 21, with learning disabilities. The program focuses on gaining the individuals skills that they can take into the adult world in order to be successful, Lineweber said.
BHS science teacher Stephanie Coudeyras and media specialist Carol Oltman gave a report on the use of Google Chromebooks in the classroom. Everyone in the meeting grouped into teams and competed in an online quiz about the history of Nebraska, similar to what a BHS social studies class would do with the Chromebooks.
The public is welcome to attend regular BPS board meetings at 7 p.m., on the second Monday of every month and Committee of the Whole meetings at 6 p.m., on the fourth Thursday of every month. Meetings are held in the board room of Central Administration Building at Sixth and High streets.
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