Saturday, September 20, 2014

West Franklin: Public support key to consolidation

By CRYSTAL HERBER, Herald Staff Writer | 11/30/2012

POMONA — As consolidation and bond issue questions abound, school officials want West Franklin patrons to understand their vision for the district’s future.

Members of the West Franklin school board continued talks this week about a potential bond election on the horizon and how community members can get involved in the process. The next step, with the help of a facilities committee, is to develop a vision statement for the project, which is expected to include construction of a new West Franklin school facility at a consolidated campus in Pomona.

POMONA — As consolidation and bond issue questions abound, school officials want West Franklin patrons to understand their vision for the district’s future.

Members of the West Franklin school board continued talks this week about a potential bond election on the horizon and how community members can get involved in the process. The next step, with the help of a facilities committee, is to develop a vision statement for the project, which is expected to include construction of a new West Franklin school facility at a consolidated campus in Pomona.

“[The committee members are] going to be charged with developing a vision statement,” Dotson Bradbury, West Franklin superintendent, said. “That vision statement will then come to the school board for approval and then that vision statement will be the guide used in planning for the bond and what’s constructed.”

While a vision statement is not expected to include specifics, the two- to three-paragraph statement will give patrons a general idea of what the overall goal of the process will be, Bradbury said. It could include phrases dealing with ensuring a safe and secure learning environment for students and staff, for example, and other goals district officials and patrons think are important.

The committee is expected to have three open meetings to discuss the vision statement, under the guidance of an architect from Howard and Helmer, Overland Park. The meetings are scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11 and Dec. 13 at the school’s district office, 510 E. Franklin St., Pomona.

The 14-person committee now consists of two school board members and patrons from all three areas of the school district, including parents of children from the different grade levels. A few more community members might be added to the committee before its first meeting, Bradbury said.

Once a vision statement has been established, a process of educating the public on the project will begin, Bradbury said. The first of at least two community information meetings — where the public will be able to ask questions, give input and receive a presentation from the project’s contractor and architect — is planned for mid-January. The community’s involvement in such meetings will be invaluable, Bradbury said, because without community support the bond issue will not pass.

“The goal there is to say to community patrons: ‘What is it that you would like to see in terms of facilities? What enhancements or improvements would you like to see?’” Bradbury said, adding patrons will be notified well in advance about the meetings.

Patrons’ requests will be prioritized within the resources reasonable for getting a bond issue passed, Bradbury said. The bond election likely will be set for early June, Bradbury said. While the school board has not set an exact amount for the bond issue — waiting instead for information based on the public meetings — recent discussion has centered on the $12- to $15-million range. Previous talks indicated patrons might be asked to pass a bond election worth $25 million.

A majority vote on a bond election would begin the consolidation process that ultimately would bring the district’s 650 students from the three West Franklin campuses — Pomona, Appanoose and Williamsburg — to one campus in Pomona. No timeline has been set for the consolidation of the schools, though the passing of a bond issue would mark the beginning of such a process. Bradbury said the consolidation is not likely to happen until 2015 at the earliest.

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