Mid-Prairie growth challenges district resources

By John Butters, The JOURNAL


WELLMAN ? A growing student population has Mid-Prairie officials scrambling to find space for its East Elementary music program.

Board members met Monday to find a temporary solution to a situation board president Jeremy Pickard called ?a good problem to have.?

Due to larger enrollments, the district added a sixth section of first-graders to the East Elementary school in Wellman. A decision was made at a previous board meeting to convert the former music room into a classroom for the students. That left music teacher Heather Herschberger without a classroom.

After reviewing six options, the board agreed that Herschberger and the administration were best positioned to find a classroom plan using the existing resources. While it searches for short-term answers to the challenge, the board has tasked a Facilities Committee with finding a long-term resolution to accommodate the district?s growth.

In the meantime, Pickard said the committee had proposed five options. The first option was to lease space in Bulltown plaza. Superintendent Mark Schneider said the cost would have been approximately $2,100 per month, plus property taxes. He said the school would have been required to provide a playground and that would entail moving equipment to a nearby site for a cost of $10,000 to $15,000.

A second option was to move one first-grade class from Wellman to West Elementary in Kalona. That would entail renovating space at West for $10,000- $15,000.

In a third option, about 540 square feet of free space at East could be used, Pickard said, though it has its limitations. A fourth option was to convert an outdoor classroom at West to a music classroom. The fifth option and approved option was to allow the administrative staff to work with Herschberger to create the best possible program within the building at East.

Schneider said it was likely that the committee would have a building recommendation for the board by the end of the year, but that no one knew what that might look like.

?It always depends upon a projection on the number of incoming students,? he said.

The district launched a building program several years ago that added space to both East and West elementaries after closing Township Elementary in North Washington County. That school now houses a successful home-school program that Mid-Prairie developed for both its own students and neighboring districts.

At Monday?s meeting the board approved a request from English Valley to enter into a 28E agreement that would provide services for its home-schooled students. The 28E agreement allows the English Valley district to claim the students as residents. This lets the students participate in school activities. Schneider said the building would soon serve 400 students at a reimbursement rate of $2,600 each, bringing just over $1 million into the district.

With the addition of English Valley, Mid-Prairie?s home-school program will have three participating districts. The other two are Williamsburg and Clear Creek Amana.

In other business, the board accepted the resignation of longtime board member and board vice president George Schaefer and appointed Emily Yule to fill his term. Her term would expire with the November elections if no petition is filed calling for a special election to fill the vacancy.

Board member Marianne Schlabach was elected as vice president. Her vice presidency would expire at the first board meeting in September.