The Greater Albany Public Schools board members voted Monday night to postpone deciding whether to use COVID-19 relief funds to combine sister schools Central and Takena until more information is gathered.
Interim Superintendent Rob Saxton made this recommendation to the board during the public meeting. Before spending $4.1 million of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III funds, Saxton said three things ought to be considered: community input, a demographics study and a review of the Central building.
“This seemed like a decision that needed community involvement and input, and one that was not going to be appropriate without some,” Saxton said. “If we’re going to do this, let’s do it right.”
While board members agree that it is better to take action sooner than later, the funds are available until September 2024. The current idea is to add six to eight classrooms to Takena to house current Central students, which would cost $4.1 million.
Saxton and a couple of board members will devise statistically valid survey questions to include on a community input form, meaning the questions will not be loaded but rather elicit the specific answers needed to make a decision. This is expected to take about two months.
The demographic report will provide information on current and future enrollment data, which affects the school’s long term budget. The report is expected to take three to four months.
Lastly, a building review of Central will be conducted to find out what exactly that school needs to remain a district building. Teachers and parents have voiced concerns about children burning themselves on radiators or falling out of screenless windows. Many see Central as an unfit building for children, especially compared to Takena’s updated facilities.
“If we’re going to continue to use this in its current model, there are costs here,” Saxton said. “We need to know what they are so we can make a good decision.”
Joanna Mann covers education for Mid-Valley Media. She can be contacted at 541-812-6076 or Joanna.Mann@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter via @joanna_mann_.