Magdalena HS renovations done; more space, programs

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The most recent Magdalena School Board meeting got underway with a brief tour of the recently completed renovations to the high school.

Board Members Kelby Stephens and Randell Major, Board Secretary Barbara Gordon and Board Presidnet Gail Armstrong joined Superintendent Mike Chambers, and administrative staff, in viewing the new classrooms that were once the school’s agricultural center. Board Member Julie Herrera was absent from the meeting.

The four classrooms, plus a weight room, add room for the high school’s future growth, as well as freeing up badly needed storage space for things like text books, Chambers said.

“The project turned out better than we could have hoped,” Chambers said. “These are not classrooms that look like they used to be an ag shop.” The new ag space has been moved across the campus, to be near the school’s shop, livestock pens and greenhouse.

The project cost $1,014,000 and will be paid for by voter-approved general obligation bonds.

Chambers said the renovation is “basically” finished, but there are a few unresolved issues. The air return vents in the weight room were capped during construction, despite the plans showing them as usable, he said.

“Now it’s an argument between the mechanical and electrical contractors over who should have done that,” he said.

Chambers said the architect for the project was pleased with how few overages there were on the project and so was the district.

“We’ve been on pins and needles wanting to get this done,” he said. “As time goes on, we will need these extra rooms more. They will allow us to create space to make programs more functional.”

He said the preschool staff has been asking to take back room next to them since it was built for their program.

“The 3- and 4-year-old developmental delayed kids need room for therapy. If they get that one back, we can reclaim the one their using now and convert it back to a teacher workroom,” Chambers said. “Over the years, this will really pay off. We will have options for programs. This should give us access to the room that used to be the home ec kitchen and hopefully we can get that culinary arts program going.”

Chambers also updated the board on the upcoming budget preparations.

“There’s not a lot of information forthcoming. We’ve heard that there will be some kind of increase in unit value, but they are not able to say what it will be,” he said, referencing the state department of education.

Due to budgetary constraints, Chambers said the district had notified the last group of classroom instructional aids hired that it wouldn’t be able to offer them contracts for the next school year.

“We’ve had a loss of enrollment, especially in special education,” he said. “The way things are right now, we don’t have enough information to make decisions.”

Chambers said the district is looking at some staffing changes to free up money, in order to make the next year “comfortable.” He said there were personnel leaving the district at the end of the year that would not be replaced, in order to save money.

And the superintendent said the board should start thinking about the preschool program again.

“The issue of preschool is going to come up again. We weathered the storm last year and decided we could do one more year,” Chambers said. “There has been a slight increase in funding but we haven’t been told if the state is planning to fund more programs, increase existing programs.

“We are going to have to decide. It wasn’t going to be a popular decision with our community last year. We are going to have to have the discussion again.”

By tightening the budget, Chambers said the hope is to give staff a “nibble” of a raise.

“They’ve had nothing for the last three years,” he said. “We will have more information after the spring budget workshops. By cutting staff to free up dollars, we can do some of the things we want to do. It may come down to a one or two percent raise or keep preschool.”

A public budget hearing will be held at 6 p.m. on April 17 at the Magdalena High School library.

 


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.