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Yellow Springs School Board

Yellow Springs High School/McKinney Middle School as it appeared in late September last year. (Drone photo by Bryan Cady)

YS Schools Facilities Committee begins

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At its first meeting on Thursday, April 7, the YS Schools Facilities Committee, recently formed by the school board, focused on clarifying its purpose and dividing tasks between its members to work toward that purpose.

“In order to know what a permanent improvement plan would look like for this community, we actually have to develop one,” said Judith Hempfling, who, with Dorothée Bouquet, represents the school board on the committee. “It will be a combination of a maintenance plan and … deeper renovations and new construction to meet the needs of our schools.”

In attendance at the meeting were Hempfling and Bouquet; David Roche, a home inspector; Kineta Sanford, Mills Lawn sixth grade teacher; Brian Mayer, the district’s instrumental teacher; Jerry Papania, a designer of industrial facilities; Craig Conrad, a former maintenance supervisor for YS Schools; Mike Slaughter, an electrical engineer; Scott Fife, a former educator in Centerville schools; Chris Hamilton, a local parent who was on the previous facilities task force; Mike Ruetschle, an architect who is advising the committee and who has advised the district on past facilities plans; Superintendent Terri Holden; and Mills Lawn Principal Megan Winston. Miami Township Zoning Inspector Richard Zopf and middle/high school Principal Jack Hatert, who also serve on the committee, were not present.

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“This committee will be information-gathering,” Hempfling said.

The committee discussed the possibility of hiring a maintenance plan advisor, or MPA, which was suggested by Ruetschle. An MPA would be able to make recommendations to the committee and the district on necessary long-term maintenance. Ruetschle added that an MPA’s role would be complementary to his own as an architect.

“I think there are going to be things that [an MPA] may not be best suited to do. For example, if … we look at new construction components to this plan, I think I could provide expertise on the planning and cost side of that,” he said.

A request for proposals, or RFP, for a maintenance plan advisor was later drafted by Holden and district treasurer Jacob McGrath and was posted the following Tuesday, April 12. A pre-proposal RFP meeting will be held Thursday, April 21, and the deadline for proposals is May 3.

The committee divided itself into smaller groups in order to work more effectively during the month ahead. Work will be divided initially between two groups: the building “users” on the committee — that is, those who currently use the school facilities — and the building “experts,” who have experience in assessing building needs from other perspectives.

First on the docket for the building users is creating a survey to disseminate to district faculty and staff. The purpose of the survey will be to collect information on facilities needs from a staff standpoint.

Both Winston and Holden stressed that the survey should be kept simple so as to avoid overburdening school staff, with Holden adding that it should focus on areas already identified in the committee’s proposal.

“I don’t want to make it seem like teachers don’t want to be [participating in a survey] — they definitely do,” Winston said.

Hempfling agreed, saying: “It doesn’t need to be complicated — and it shouldn’t be.”

Ruetschle reminded the group that teachers had completed a similar survey in 2019. Bouquet suggested that the committee employ the previous survey as a guideline for building a new one, and agreed to draw up a first draft from which building users can work, with a final draft to be disseminated to school staff before the end of the 2021–22 school year.

Ruetschle also suggested that users employ a space utilization study, which will help identify how spaces within the existing facilities are used. The data collected during the study may be used down the line to help identify where classes can be moved during renovations. Holden agreed to complete the study.

Building experts were split into smaller teams of two in order to make assessments of individual areas of concern within the facilities. These areas include doors, windows and roofs; plumbing, HVAC and mechanical systems; floors, furniture, finishes and ADA accessibility; information technology, electrical, fire protection and security systems; and playgrounds, parking and site conditions.

Hempfling reminded committee members to be careful not to violate state Sunshine Laws, saying that, in order to maintain transparency, committees cannot “deliberate outside of meetings.” Any emails sent amongst smaller groups, she said, should avoid violating those laws by not being shared with the whole committee.

An online documents depository has been created in order for committee members to more easily access documentation from previous facilities processes and from the committee’s current work. The depository is being organized by Fife.

The committee intends to complete the work of its sub-groups over the summer.

“Our goal is to have a [permanent improvement plan] outline with the cost and the priorities by late fall 2022,” Bouquet said. “It is a tight schedule, but we’re going to push for it.”

The full committee meeting is available to view on the Yellow Springs Community Access YouTube channel; future meetings will be hosted there and will be aired on Spectrum Channel 5.

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