Classroom and Facility Matters Occupy USD 320 Board

An Outdoor Wildlife Learning Site is slated for Wamego’s Middle School. At Monday’s Board of Education meeting, Middle School Teacher Shane Neel provided information and the layout of the proposed Outdoor Classroom or OWLS. According to the plan, the area west of the Middle School will be divided in plots for the study of various Ecological research programs, which will include water management, fire burn areas, and gardening. Neel said once the greenhouse is built, the students will grow and sell vegetables back to the school, which will make this part of the project almost self-sustaining.

Neel announced the receipt of a $25,000  from Monsanto to further the construction of the Outdoor Classroom. He said this grant raises the total of grants to $55,000, in addition to a number of local companies volunteering their employees and equipment for the project. His presentation was to ask the Board for approval of the location of the Greenhouse, utility maintenance support, and assistance with the construction. After many questions and suggestions, the board tabled a decision for later.

The issue of the Wamego Middle School’s chiller problems were reviewed by USD 320 school board members after going over the formal proposal from Central Mechanical Construction for either repair of the existing unit or total replacement. Director of Buildings and Grounds, Jon Stoddard was asked to secure this proposal at an earlier meeting, and after numerous questions, was asked what it would take to install a GeoThermal unit by board member Mike Malin. Stoddard said the entire Middle School building would need to be retrofitted to accommodate the unit.

Stoddard was asked to get more information to determine the cost of installing GeoThermal, which would eliminate the need to purchase a new chiller. He got the Board’s attention when he reported sizable savings with the installation of GeoThermal in the Central Elementary’s recent addition. He added there may be a federal grant available for GeoThermal, which would require changing out all the Middle School’s outdated lighting system. The Board wants more cost information on GeoThermal, and deferred making a decision to repair the existing chiller until the January meeting.

Wamego’s USD 320 has seen an increase in the number of students needing ESOL (English as a second language) services. At Monday’s Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Denise O’Dea reported there are currently 26 students, all different grade levels, in the district, with four teachers ESOL certified and four ESOL part-time Para’s, to serve the needs of these students. She noted the 4 teachers have other duties, and can spend only a limited amount of time teaching ESOL. She asked for permission to hire 1 full-time ESOL teacher/coordinator.

Board member Ken Hitch asked if there may be an opportunity to share an ESOL teacher from another district, and asked O’Dea to check for the possibility. The board did approve advertising for a teacher to serve the rest of the school year.