Lincoln improvements identified

School Board President Roger George and Board Member Linda Hoskins were among those attending the Feb. 16 school board meeting who got a look at the new fine arts facility at the Albia Junior High/High School before the meeting. According to Superintendent Kevin Crall, the facility is expected to be finished in the next few weeks. 

The Albia School Board learned about issues facing Lincoln Center from Principal Joellen Swartz during their Feb. 16 meeting.

Swartz said that she wanted to make sure the board kept the needs of Lincoln Center students and staff in mind as they move forward with renovation projects around the district in the future.

“I want to advocate for looking at Lincoln and making sure that Lincoln Center is in your future plans as far as improvements, “ said Swartz. “And I feel like we need to start that discussion soon.”

Swartz also wanted to emphasize that the staff are doing a great job with what they currently have in the building and maintaining a good atmosphere and environment for students.

“Teachers do a great job of covering up issues in the building and trying to make it cute,” said Swartz. “And anything I say today is not because of lack of effort on our maintenance staff. They do a fabulous job.”

One issue Swartz highlighted was handicap accessibility in the building. Swartz said the current elevator is an older model that is smaller and cannot fit a motorized wheel chair with an adult also in the elevator. Because of the size of the elevator shaft, the school cannot put a new elevator made to accommodate motorized wheelchairs in the school.

She also said when the school has multiple students in need of the elevator they have to coordinate some students leaving classes early because sometimes not all students that need to use the elevator can fit in it at the same time.

Swartz said the elevator also frequently breaks.

“When that elevator breaks I want you guys to really understand what that’s like for a student that’s in a wheelchair,” said Swartz. “They have to go outside to go to lunch. There’s no way we can get them upstairs. It is something that makes them feel not as welcome as everybody else.”

According to Swartz, the nurse’s office is also too small to fit a motorized wheelchair inside.

Swartz said the building also has some safety issues including that when people walk in, they are directly next to a classroom rather then a front office. Handrails in the building are also not up to code according to Swartz and the playground has a steep drop off on one side.

In terms of repairs needed to the building Swartz said that about 35 percent of the ceilings throughout the building have water damage, the building needs a new roof, and in some areas of the building a book can be placed in the space between the walls and the floor.

Swartz said she would also like the building to have some kind of conference room to hold meetings with parents. Currently Swartz said meetings have to be held in her office which is very small, or she has to search for an open space such as a special education classroom in order to have private meetings with families about things like disciplinary issues, special education needs and more. Swartz said Lincoln Center is also the first elementary school she has ever worked in that does not have sinks in the classrooms and she would like to see that change.

Swartz emphasized that she just wanted to board to know the ongoing needs in the building so they can take them into consideration as they plan improvements and renovations around the district.

“I always say I can’t make decisions or improve things if I don’t know what’s going on and I feel like it’s my job to make sure that all of you know what it’s like at Lincoln,” said Swartz. “We love it. We feel like it’s a great place but … if that was you or your child, we want you to think about that.”

Superintendent Kevin Crall spoke briefly to the board about revamping the way board members are elected and possibly moving some seats to at-large elections. Crall said they would need to wait for the district to be contacted after the state receives its census data, probably within the next year.

The board approved the low bid for a high school roof project. Academy Roofing from Des Moines won the project with a bid of $411,500. Superintendent Crall said the district had estimated the project would cost around $500,000 and all three bids received came in well below that. Crall said the project would begin as soon as the weather allowed.

The board approved extending a temporary COVID-19 Leave Policy to all employees until the end of the school year. The Family First Coronovirus Response Act expired on Dec. 31, 2020 but Superintendent Crall said he believed the two weeks of extra leave should be provided to staff because the virus did not stop on Dec. 31. Employees will be eligible for up to 80 hours of extended paid sick leave if they are exposed to and/or diagnosed with COVID-19 through the end of the year.

District Technology Director Josh Munford presented a proposal to the board to hire a full-time technology assistant for the district. Munford said with the increasing technology needs of the district he felt hiring another person was a good use of resources. Munford said that the district currently has someone they employ on an hourly basis as needed and they would like to make that position permanent and offer benefits to the person hired.

During the open board member discussion time the board learned a little bit more about mentoring and tutoring programs that are currently happening in the school district. There is currently more then one program active in the district, with one focusing more on mentorship and leadership and one focusing on students interested in pursuing a career in education.

The board also briefly discussed the money they saved from refinancing a bond last April and what projects the money could possibly be used on in the future.

In other business:

• The board received a letter informing them the district had received a $10,000 gift from the A.Y. McDonald Charitable Foundation in December to be used by the district “to directly benefit your students, faculty and staff” according to the letter.

• The board looked at the proposed fee changes for some activity cards.

• The board approved a contract extension for Oppa to continue providing food service management for the district.

• A continued sharing agreement with Centerville for a swimming program was approved. One Albia student participated this year.

• Board policies under review for the February meeting were approved.

• The Master Calendar for the 2021-2022 school year was approved with board vice president Craig Ambrose voting no.

• Lynn Beard presented the board with the Teacher’s Association’s initial proposal for the 2021-2022 Master Contract.

• In personnel business, Ashley Rodriquez was terminated, Grace Peelen, who served as a secondary science teacher, dance team coach and MTSS data leader, resigned effective at the end of the school year, Christine Wilson was hired as a special education assistant and volunteers Michele Waber and Makenzie Summers were approved.

• It was announced the school district will not see an overall increase in the cost of insurance for the next year.