School board hears update from YMCA

The Willow Springs school board heard an update from the Ozarks Family YMCA regarding a new facility at its meeting May 8.
Chad Watson, executive director for the YMCA, showed the board preliminary drawings for the facility. He said hopes are that it will be 25,000 square feet, including two standard-size basketball courts that could be used for basketball, volleyball, or pickleball, along with a fitness center, daycare facility, and kitchen. The board gave the YMCA tentative approval in August to pursue the facility, which would be built by the YMCA on school property near the corner of Tenth Street and Forest Lane, facing Forest.
“How does the fundraising look?” asked board member Matt Hobson.
Watson said they are working on three different grants, and they’re ready to start a public fundraising drive.
“I feel confident with it,” said Watson. “Hopefully, you’ll start seeing more of us.”
Local board members include Josh Henry, Derek Fredrick, Stacey Johnson, Cassie Rutledge, Philip Chafin, Jordan Johnson, Joe Blankenship, and Jeff Porter. 
He said the facility’s fitness room likely will be open 24 hours, seven days a week as at the current facility, but the gym may have shortened hours. He said that decision hasn’t been made yet. He added that the childcare will be state licensed for 35 children, ages 5 to 12.
He said hopes would be to break ground in three to four years. 
The also board approved a salary proposal for the 2023-2024 school year, which included a 3 percent increase in pay to the certified salary schedule and an additional step on the schedule for certified staff at year 17. 
“We wanted to make sure we covered the district as a whole,” said Hobson, who served on the finance committee. 
Superintendent Dr. Marty Spence reported to the board at the beginning of the meeting that the state had included funding in the budget to keep starting pay for teachers at $38,000, with the anticipation that at some point, the district would be able to maintain that as starting pay. 
“We went with the 3 percent (increase) this year because the cost of living went up 9 percent,” added Hobson. 
“I think it’s great,” commented board member Brent Colley. He said the additional step will help longtime teachers in the district and that it hadn’t been changed in been many, many years. 
Hobson said these changes would help the district move in that direction. For classified staff, the salary schedule would increase from six steps to 10, with the goal of ensuring all employees are making at least minimum wage. 
“This has an effect on our bus drivers, which is something we have struggled with,” added Hobson.
Spence said health insurance has increased some – $33 per month for employees. The district will split that amount with district paying $16.50 of the increase. The district will pay $485.50 of the $633 total monthly premium per employee, with employees paying $147.50.
In other business:
• The board recognized the top five senior projects from the class of 2023. Those included Gavin Ferguson, who presented his project to the board, along with Josiah Smith and Lily Bolander. Courtney Ames and Drake Marshall also were in the top five but weren’t in attendance at the meeting.
• The board approved resignations from high school choir instructor Adam Hajeh, elementary teacher Emilee Daniels, and paraprofessionals Whitney Smith and Kaitlyn King. New hires included middle school instructor James Lee and Victor Leighty in maintenance. The board also approved the purchase of Go Math math curriculum for grades kindergarten through fourth, with a budgeted cost of nearly $130,000.
• Dr. Spence updated the board on the district’s remaining $477,537 in ESSER funding, or COVID relief funds. The funds must be spent by October 2024. Projects coming out of those funds will include approximately $150,000 for the athletic training facility currently under construction, $76,352 for renovations at the former Missouri Department of Transportation District 9 headquarters, and $54,600 for renovations of school buildings. Hopes are for the district to build a high school kitchen with the remaining funds.
• Spence also discussed the possibility of creating a community relations position for the district. He said the individual would be a liaison between the school and community, providing both internal and external communication. “It could do a lot for us,” said Spence. “I can see the potential…we can’t do it justice with the staffing we have.” Spence said attrition in the district means the position could be funded without an impact on the budget.
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