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CITY COUNCIL MEETING 11/09/15 (School Campus Plans)

R-2 District, Foundation Ask Council for Financial Support in North Campus Plan
Catherine Stortz Ripley, CT 
November 11, 2015

Chillicothe City Council members are considering a request to help fund construction of a road that could make developing a one-campus school district at the existing high school site a feasible option. The request came from the Chillicothe Educational Foundation with support from the school district. Foundation president Ed Douglas and Chillicothe R-2 School Superintendent Roger Barnes addressed the council during the city's regular meeting Monday evening at City Hall. The foundation asked the city to consider funding one-half of the cost to build a road from U.S. Highway 65 to a facility that could be built north of the stadium to house pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade students. Local foundations, Douglas said, agreed to fund half of the road if the city would provide funding for the other half. The maximum cost was identified at $600,000, and the city's portion would not exceed $300,000. Actual costs could be below that dollar amount, Douglas said.

The school board has been working with architects on a new facility plan for more than a year and anticipates placing a measure on the April 2016 ballot to address building facility needs. Through building evaluations and input from the community, a plan was formed to build a two-campus district: an elementary campus at the current middle school site and a middle school / high school campus at the current high school site. The idea of a one-campus district had been favorable; however, it was ruled out because of the estimated $1.2 million that would be needed to build a road from Highway 65 to Hornet Road to help with traffic flow. "Rather than building a road from Highway 65 to Hornet Drive, we came up with a plan that we could build the building north of the stadium and then have an in-and-out turn around," Douglas said. A stop light would need to be added to Highway 65, approximately halfway between Missouri 190 and the traffic light at the correctional center. Douglas explained that the foundation had been given 15 acres near the high school years ago and had purchased another 45 acres with the idea that pre-kindergarten through 12th grades eventually would be at one location. "Our thought was that when the new high school was built, it would make a great area for a campus over a long period of time," Douglas told the council. "We hired architects to study and determine whether all of the potential school buildings could go into that acreage and we found that they could." Under this most recent proposal, the access point to the new building would be off of Highway 65, so there would be no additional traffic on Hornet Drive. If approved, long-term plans would be to move grades two through five to the campus as well, perhaps around 2031, and then the foundation and district would consider funding for extending the road to Hornet Drive.

In addition to Douglas and Barnes, several other people attended Monday night's meeting, including representatives from community foundations, and property owners who said they would be willing to provide an easement for the road, if that option is pursued. Also present was Tonya Lohman, area engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation. The road would be a city road and maintained by the city. It was noted that when the high school was built, the city paid for half of the costs of Hornet Drive.

Barnes said that he would like for the campus to be located north and that district teachers and building administrators also supported the one-campus concept. He noted that the school district has been supportive of the city's economic development efforts in the past, even when those efforts involved tax abatements and a loss of short-term revenue for the district, and asked that the city support the funding request. The council scheduled a special finance meeting for Monday, November 23, to consider the request. Barnes stated that if the council is willing to grant the request, the district would conduct a public forum on Tuesday, December 1, to further explain the proposal and gather feedback from those attending whether to expand at the current high school site or develop facilities at the existing middle school. Douglas expressed the foundation's desire to support the school district and advocated for one campus. "We will support the school in any direction they want to go," he said. "I do think that it does need to be north. There are so many advantages."

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