Mehlville panel focuses on school district’s facilities

Group to submit proposals in spring to COMPASS Facilitating Team

By BURKE WASSON

A team of Mehlville School District administrators, teachers and parents is preparing to form recommendations for the district’s facilities through 2012.

The Long-Range Facilities Master Plan Committee will evaluate data on district buildings and those facilities’ viability to future learning and teaching methods.

The committee is part of the district’s public-engagement process, COMPASS — Charting the Oakville-Mehlville Path to Advance Successful Schools. The team ultimately will present its recommendations for the district’s buildings next year to the COMPASS Facilitating Team.

The Facilitating Team is studying various aspects of the district like facilities, academic performance, demographics, technology and communications before making its final recommendations in May to the Board of Education.

During a Sept. 12 meeting at Wohlwend Elementary School, educational-planning consultant Dan Keck said evaluations of district buildings should be completed by November.

“That’s a study that goes into where we set teams at each and every school building with this question — in what ways does this school building support the instructional program?” Keck said. “And in what ways does it impede the instructional program? And usually, school buildings will do a little bit of both. So those facility evaluations are conducted by using what we call national-standards models that compare these schools against national standards in a whole variety of areas.”

Keck said district administrators and maintenance officials would be trained up to that time to accurately evaluate the district’s buildings to national standards.

District architect Dwight Dickinson of Dickinson Hussman Architects told the team that he is pleased to see a merge of the community with district officials.

“We really felt like we needed to have more community involvement in this committee because truly this is about the community and what the future of our facilities are going to be,” he said “So you as community, certainly we want your voice as well as hearing what the staff from the district have to say, too. So we see this as a real collaborative effort between staff and parents and community. And it’s real important that everybody understand that we’re all in this together. There’s only one goal in mind here. And that’s student success. Whatever that might end up being, student success is the ultimate goal of what all of our activities should come to.”

A survey of staff members found the top five concerns for district buildings, in order, are: indoor-air quality, security, accessibility, acoustics and daylight.

As for Dickinson, he previously said during the committee’s first meeting on May 15 that he would like to see roughly $80 million to $100 million of unfinished work from the November 2000 Proposition P bond issue completed.

Some of these improvements would include upgrading district libraries, relocating the district’s bus facility currently at Mehlville Senior High School and purchasing land for future facility improvements.

Dickinson and Keck have also emphasized their desire to improve the district’s facilities to allow for a wider array of curriculum through such opportunities as expanded classrooms, more computer labs and outdoor learning.

Board of Education President Tom Diehl challenged the committee to develop ideas for facilities improvements even if they can’t be funded in the near future. The idea, Diehl said, is to develop goals that the district can reach when possible.

“We want an environment where our kids can reach the full potential so that they can learn what’s necessary and they’ll have the tools to succeed at college or succeed in the work world …,” Diehl said. “What do we want our kids to have so that they can compete in a very competitive economy? We’re not really competing with people in Hancock and Affton.

“We’re competing with people all over the world. And so I would hope that you don’t hold back any of your ideas, any of your thoughts or concerns so that we can actually have a plan that, as Dan says, signifies eight to 10 years down the road. We may not have money today to implement all this. But if we know what our goals are, we can always keep working towards them,” the board president added.