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No rush to build more schools

 

Commissioners, School Board talk jointly about facilities, savings, security

FRANK TAYLOR

Managing Editor

Even if residential development picks up after several years of stagnation, there shouldn’t be any need to build additional schools for some time, county officials advised school officials during a joint meeting Thursday night between the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners and Board of Education.

“We don’t have a better crystal ball than anybody else,” County Manager George Wood told both groups. “We don’t see the numbers changing (on new construction permits) for two or maybe three years.”

County planning officials emphasized that they’ve seen indications of some renewed interest in building in recent months, but no dash to seek new permits. There’s also a sizeable backlog of properties that have already been approved for building, but on which no construction has started.

The schools have plans to build a new elementary in the county’s southwestern corner at some point, but until it’s actually needed, the project has been delayed annually.

“When we talk about a school,” Wood said, “obviously we don’t want to build a school until we need it. We’ve identified where the growth would take place.”

Wood also noted that the cost of actually building and running a school would be about a 2.5-cent hike in the property tax, something that the county shouldn’t rush to do until necessary.

In other discussions during the joint session, School Board member Bob Silver discussed his close work with Wood and schools finance officer Steve Zickefoose to come up with creative ways to share resources and take advantage of economies of scale in purchasing goods and services.

Among the success stories on this front, the county is allowing the schools to greatly expand their cold food storage space by taking advantage of facilities at the old hospital, and the county has been taking advantage of the schools’ bus maintenance facility to maintain sheriff’s vehicles and other cars and trucks in the county fleet.

Members of both boards also talked at length about increased school security measures, especially in light of recent shootings at schools around the country.

“I’m not sure what the right thing is to do,” Commissioner Carl Robinson said, listing a wide range of options that have been discussed around the country in recent weeks.

“How would (adding) one officer really help? … There’s so many places that a person could enter and be disruptive. Maybe we need a really good lockdown system. If I had a child in the school, I would want to be inconvenienced. When you look at all of those things, what is the right thing to do?”

Silver concurred, noting that each school has to be considered individually, but the layout and other factors at each one are different.

Commissioner Jim Klein emphasized that the schools need to come up with proposals for security and then the county can help make them happen. “We’re the funding source, you are the idea generator,” he said.

Superintendent Sherry Hoyle said the schools already have several measures in the works and some campuses are looking closely at buzzer systems and keyless entry to prevent easy access by intruders.

The School Board is expected to discuss the security issue further when members meet for committee sessions on Tuesday.

 

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