The Ottumwa Courier

October 25, 2013

Van Buren, Harmony discuss school sharing opportunities

Courier correspondent

---- — KEOSAUQUA — Members of Van Buren and Harmony school boards met during Van Buren’s regular board meeting on Oct. 16 to discuss sharing opportunities between the two school districts.

As a result of the meeting, school board members will tour the four school buildings in the two districts over a two-week period and study future sharing ideas.

Van Buren board members will tour Harmony’s facilities Wednesday, Oct. 30, and Saturday, Nov. 2 at 9:30 a.m.

Harmony board members will tour Van Buren on Nov. 4 and Nov. 7.

Van Buren and Harmony already share junior high football and are in the process of sharing some transportation and curriculum director functions.

The Van Buren school board, during its regular meeting, discussed its strategic planning for building improvements and approved bids for repair work stemming from last May’s storm that damaged the schools athletic fields.

Action and discussion items included:

• Strategic planning on building improvements: Superintendent Pam Ewell presented a draft entitled “Planning for the Future- Building Improvements Fall 2013-15.”

From October through December, the plan calls for a needs and analysis survey with all staff, parents, board members and community members. It includes tours of the buildings. Among other things, the board will discuss what they perceive as the needs of the district and compare it with what the staff reports and then see what the overlapping needs are.

• Kuno update: Students are “doing great taking care of their devices,” said Chuck Banks, principal at the high school. “The Kunos are continuing to be infused into instruction each day.”

According to digital integration specialist Renee Thomas, so far, there have been four cracked/broken screens, with each family being billed $75.00. There have been some issues to work through, she stated. Connectivity is the biggest issue, as well as working with the vendor on other issues.

• Fence proposals: In June, the board received proposals from Gullett Fence Company, Ottumwa, to fix the baseball field and football practice field fences, which were damaged due to the May 30 storm. The board chose to spend $8,200 for a 6-foot-high fence at the baseball field and spend $600 to repair the football fence. The recommendation for the baseball field was a 12-feet-high fence, which would cost $5,500 more.

However, the board balked at the extra 6 feet.

It has been believed that the short distance between home plate and the outfield fence and close back stop are the main reasons why Van Buren hasn’t been selected to host district baseball tournament play.

However, Banks said, “those aren’t requirements, only recommendations by the state. The only place we would play that has a 50-foot backstop is Principal Park. The main reason why we don’t host district baseball games is geography.”

“There’s no difference between having a 6- or 12-feet-high fence,” said Steingreaber, who supported the the 6-feet bid.

The board also approved a quote for batting cages for softball and baseball to replace ones destroyed by the May 30 storm. All posts are set in concrete. There was no concrete for the originals. Cost of the cage is $2,666 for frame and $1,639 for netting for the softball cage and $3,035 for frame and $2,079 for netting for baseball cage.

All told, the district received $57,000 from insurance for the wind storm damage, which included the toppling of the “crow’s nest” at the football field. The repairs cost more than the district received for insurance settlement, partly because of the concrete work that was included in the repairs to the football field.

• The board discussed an error in the estimate for the baseball field project. Hesler Lawn and Landscape requested a bid from a vendor for 8,100 square feet of sod for the infield (baseball infields are 90 feet by 90 feet). The supplier instead inverted the first two numbers and gave a bid for 1,800 square feet. The error was discovered after the district awarded the contract. Board member Rick Plowman asked about responsibility.

“It was an honest mistake,” said Ewell. Board president Stan Whitten said Kirkhart Skidloader and Trenching and Hesler “both discounted the prices because of the project.”