School security work approved

Until Monday, the top item on the list of needed building projects in the Vandalia School District was the replacement of the old air-conditioning system at the Okaw Area Vocational Center.
That changed when district officials learned that significant work on the district’s security system is needed.
Reporting on the 45-year-old air-conditioning system at the vocational center, Steve Stombaugh said that the “mechanical is working. There is no control – the control system is done, it’s obsolete.
“They control it by shutting the power off (to the system). When they get warm, they turn it back on to the system.
“Seriously, that’s how is being operated,” Stombaugh said about the process used for the past eight years.
“Mechanically, for something that’s 45 years old, that’s not in too bad of shape,” he said.
Stombaugh said that the district could replace the control system, estimated to cost $8,000-$10,000.
“That doesn’t seem like a wise investment,” he said.
Stombaugh and local engineer Mark Ritter have estimated that the two-part process of replacing the air-conditioning system is $120,000, and Ritter said there would likely be displacement of students regardless of whether the district proceeds with replacement or waits until the system fails.
“To push it off a year and doing it in a slower time manner,” Stombaugh said, “you’re taking a chance on a few major components that are 45 years old.
“If you ask me if it will make it another year, it’s made it 45,” he said, with Ritter adding that the life expectancy of the system was probably 20 years.
With plans to move ahead with that project, Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Garrison said that on Monday, they learned of problems with the district’s security system.
She said the problem with the system includes a copper line to the vocational center and that the district can spend the money to try to locate the line and fix it.
Or, Garrison said, “We can spend $27,000 to upgrade all of the district to a digital system which will be interconnected.
“So, if a teacher has an emergency in his or her room, they can dial a code and it activates the system across the entire district.
“That puts everybody on hard lockdown and that gives administrators time to respond,” Garrison said.
“The other concern is that our system is antiquated and old, because technology is moving so fast,” she said.
“When the button was pushed for the intruder drill, the physical button was reset, but our controls were not reset,” Garrison said.
“The concern is, if we have a real intruder, then the system is not going to activate,” she said.
Garrison also told the board that a software upgrade is needed for motion-activated security cameras.
The two security projects cost about $52,000, and the board agreed to make those the top priority, with Garrison saying that the district’s maintenance supervisor, Josh Bogart, recommended holding off on the OAVC air-conditioning project for now.
In giving an update on the district’s long-range plan for capital projects, Ritter said that projects slated for fiscal year 2019 are either completed or in progress.
Those include repairs to the north bathroom at the high school, plaster repairs in stairwells at the high school, HVAC coil replacement at the elementary school, floor tile replacement at the elementary school and the second phase of a waterline project at the elementary school.
In reporting on district financials, Garrison said that the district, as it promised, agreed to lower its tax levy by 25 cents if voters would OK a 1-cent sales tax for county school districts.
“We know the sales tax will make up for that (funds lost from operations and maintenance through the lower levy),” she said.
“But the sales tax starts July 1 and we will start collecting it in October,” Garrison said. “So, it’s going to take us a year to catch up.
“What that means for budgeting purposes is that instead of $600,000 (in operations and maintenance), we have $300,00 to start with.
“We’re in a lean year – we knew that going in when we lowered the tax levy,” Garrison said.
“The beauty of it is, our tax rate for the Vandalia School District is $4.88; last year, it was $5.13.
“Historically, this is the first time in a over a decade that we have an under-$5 tax rate. So, there’s a celebration there,” she said.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the board accepted the resignation of Shelly Forys, a fourth-grade teacher at the junior high and approved the employment of Krista Sharp as a fourth-grade teacher.
It also approved the hiring of Alex Sasse as a bus driver.
Garrison also reported at the meeting that a group of district administrators and board members visited the LeRoy School District to learn about “their 12-year journey with a new superintendent and new board members,” and goals they have set.
“It was a really good experience,” Garrison said, adding that after that visit, there was an Art of School Board Training.

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