- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—In its preparation for its school reconfiguration at the start of the 2016-17 school year, the Newton Community School District has a long laundry list of tasks to complete.

One of those complex tasks is to assemble data and re-draw elementary-school boundaries for what will be four K-4 campuses, and the NCSD board of education took a step toward completing that task Monday.

At its regular meeting, held in the Emerson Hough conference room, the board voted by a 5-0 vote to hire Robert Schwarz Planning to compile a large amount of enrollment, demographic and city and county data to help the district plan its transition. Board member Travis Padget abstained, and another member, Andy Elbert, wasn’t at Monday’s meeting.

Newton Schools, which has used Schwarz Planning in the past, will pay the consulting firm $13,800 for its services — $9,000 for an enrollment analysis, and $4,800 for a boundary analysis. There will be a $3,000 fee for each community forum the firm hosts in Newton in the months ahead, and a $500 maximum fee for each report generated.

Dr. Dave Stoakes, an accomplished Iowa educator himself, made a short presentation at the meeting on behalf of Schwarz Planning. He talked about the redrawing of school boundaries within the district, and how Schwarz will likely use a lunchroom, auditorium or gymnasium for a community-input meeting.

“Anyone who has a stake in your community — residential, industrial — will need to be involved,” Stoakes said. “They (Schwarz) will divide your planning areas, but local input is needed. On one project, there was a plan to divide a community through the middle of a large open space. What we didn’t know was that kids from both sides of that space used it as a park, and all knew each other. We needed people with close ties to point out those things.”

The board held a special work session recently to have the Schwarz firm present its body of work. That was the only item on Monday’s agenda directly related to reconfiguration, but a 20-minute discussion took place on another topic that could end up being a part of facilities discussions.

Board President Sheri Benson said the Jasper Community Foundation approached the district about possibly purchasing a building owned by the foundation, which formerly housed Newton KinderCare until it closed a little more than a year ago.

Superintendent Bob Callaghan said he realizes that when Newton Schools began to offer preschool, businesses in town that offer similar or nearly identical services were not pleased. He said it’s important for the district to “be transparent” and have discussions about the building’s possibilities at open public meetings.

Several ideas were mentioned regarding the former KinderCare building, both in terms of how it could be used as is, renovated or how the Emerson Hough building could be used if preschool were relocated. Callaghan said he believes the foundation might be willing to sell the building to the district at an extremely reasonable price.

However, he also acknowledged any separate school building would likely need its own certified administrator as a principal, and Business Director Gayle Isaac said there is currently no funds available for either the purchase or the staffing of another building.

No action was taken by the board regarding the building, except to place it on the agenda for discussion at the next School Improvement Advisory Committee meeting.

A planned action item regarding a bus camera system purchase was taken off of Monday’s agenda. Only one bid was submitted, and Callaghan said there was concern that not enough potentially interested parties had a chance to see the request for proposal, which will be re-issued soon.

The board’s next regular meeting is Aug. 10. In other action Monday, the board:

— Heard from Isaac regarding school board elections. The deadline for filing a petition is Thursday, and as of Monday, only one person — Ann Leonard — had turned in her paperwork. Board members Donna Cook and Bill Perrenoud told the Newton Daily News they each plan to seek re-election in the Sept. 8 election; Nat Clark said “I don’t know yet.”

— Discussed the formation of a bond planning committee to meet with an architect to participate in the design proposal of the new Berg Complex in anticipation of a Feb. 2, 2016 public bond vote. Citizens, teachers and members of the Newton business community will be sought for a committee than will be number between 18 and 25 people.

— Approved Hiland as the milk provider and Bimbo/Sara Lee as the bread provider for the district for 2015-16. Food Service Supervisor Cristy Croson said delivery is a key strength with Hiland, and likewise, there were delivery problems with Pan-O-Gold, the previous bread supplier.

— Approved Seals Construction for a number of concrete repair projects around the district this summer. Maintenance Supervisor Jack Suttek said two other local firms had too much work this summer to accept any of the district’s concrete work.

— Approved student-teaching agreements with both Central College and William Penn University.

Contact Jason W. Brooks at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or [email protected]

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(c)2015 the Newton Daily News (Newton, Iowa)

Visit the Newton Daily News (Newton, Iowa) at www.newtondailynews.com

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