Students coming back to school will see more learning spaces, a new kitchen and several other improvements in the Mehlville School District.
Director of Facilities Steve Habeck said the first round of improvements were on target and under budget.
“Since the board approved the five-year facilities plan, we’ve been able to accomplish so much that’ll do a lot of good for the students,” he said. “It’s been a big positive for the district.”
Improvements over the 10-week summer:
Buerkle Middle School has a new kitchen with updated equipment. The previous stove, walk-in cooler and freezer were more than 30 years old, Habeck said, and the new design will also allow children to get their food faster and be seated more efficiently. Funding for this project came out of the Food Service Fund, a state and federally funded program.
“Now they can split up gym classes and utilize the space more; the antiquated hard curtains were really inoperable, bulky and hard to move,” Habeck said. The cost of the curtains was approximately $76,123.
Oakville High School now has a school supplies store in its commons area. Habeck said this is something the school requested and helped pay for with support from parent groups.
The facilities department installed a new gym floor at Wohlwend Elementary School, estimated at $35,000. The tile floor had been patched many times over the years and loose tiles continued to be a problem that created safety issues, as stated in the facilities plan.
Ten schools received new asphalt sealant and striping, estimated at $126,205.
By making larger classrooms smaller, the department created two learning spaces at Bierbaum Elementary School. Habeck said these would be used for classes like speech therapy.
The department also created a classroom space at the Witzel Learning Center for the new Freshman Academy. The academy will be a transition step for eighth-graders who need extra help going into high school.
Each high school now has an IT help space to support the district’s laptop pilot program. After successfully implementing laptops in two English classes in the spring, more than 500 students in both high schools will receive laptops.
Mehlville High School has a brand new fire alarm system, something that was needed according to Fire Marshal Ed Berkel. The new alarms came in just under $250,000, about $45,000 under budget.
The Missouri Department of Transportation also built a new entrance at Mehlville that will improve the flow of traffic in and out of the school, Habeck said. MoDOT had to replace the sidewalks to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and made improvements to the entrance as well.
The district received extra money from the state in the 2010-2011 school year and after giving some of that money to its employees, $1.2 million remained.
Knost proposed putting $240,000 a year over the next five years into the facilities budget, reallocating the extra funds.
Knost also said he wanted to match that amount each year from the district’s reserves.
The district’s reserve balance is higher than it’s been in the last 10 years, Chief Financial Officer Noel Knobloch said. The facilities improvements won't put the district below a 13 percent reserve balance, where Knost said he’d like to stay above. The state puts schools districts on a distressed list when their reserves sink below 3 percent.
The additional money will put the facilities budget between $800,000 and $900,000 a year, allowing the department to accomplish repairs throughout the district.
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