By Jessie Wagoner
McPHERSON—McPherson Public Schools are in need of new athletic facilities for both middle and high school students. The need is known, but how to best meet the need remains a mystery—one the McPherson Board of Education is currently exploring.
Monday evening, Superintendent Shiloh Vincent discussed recommendations from the facilities committee with the board of education.
“As you know, the lease agreement with McPherson College expires at the end of this school year,” Vincent said. “Throughout the fall, we have coordinated with leadership from McPherson College to identify potential solutions for SY2022/23. At this present time, three options exist for consideration.”
Vincent outlined the current options for the board:
- Option 1 – Enter into a short-term lease with McPherson College
-2-year agreement – $300,000/year
-3-year agreement – $250,000/year
- Option 2 – Rental agreement for varsity football and track only
- Option 3 – Construct our own facility on USD-418 property
Another option is to only have McPherson teams play away games. This option would be a last resort option for the district.
“One option is scheduling only away games,” Vincent said. “That is an option. It isn’t the best option and not one we want for kids, but it is an option.”
The board was asked to make a decision regarding option one, entering a lease agreement with the college. McPherson College requested notification of a desire to enter a lease agreement by the end of January.
“The recommendation of the USD-418 Facility Committee will be to pursue Option 2 and not enter a short-term lease with McPherson College,” Vincent said. “Doing so will allow the district to save significant money for future plans as we find other short and long-term solutions.”
Board members asked about the fees associated with entering a rental agreement with the college. Those fees were not known at the time, but Vincent said he would gather that information and present it to the facility committee and the board. The board was not asked to make a motion on entering a rental agreement. They were asked to make a decision about entering a lease agreement or not.
The board ultimately decided to not enter into a lease agreement with the college. They will make a decision regarding a rental contract at a future board meeting. They will also be exploring other short-term solutions for the district.
The board also met with representatives from DLR Group to discuss how to move forward in regard to presenting a new bond proposal to the community. They again reviewed the community survey results, which were completed last year. The survey was completed by 989 community members, with 1,469 community members beginning the survey and completing some portion of it.
DLR made several suggestions for the board based on the results of the survey. Those recommendations included rebuilding trust between the school district and community, increasing engagement and increasing communication. DLR also recommended making sure community members see district staff more frequently, using existing channels to leverage on a consistent basis and considering new efforts or channels to reach district patrons. Survey results indicate social media was the main way patrons are accessing information.
When it is safe to do so, more in person engagement is recommended. In-person events could be town hall style meetings, tours of schools in the district or listening tours where board members or members of district administration go to community meetings to connect with patrons.
DLR said all of these efforts should include asking the community big questions. Big questions like how they envision education in McPherson in 50 years. They also recommend communicating that every community member is an owner of the school district and facility needs will require community solutions.
“How do we take those recommendations and turn it into action,” Board Member Brian Meek asked.
DLR then laid out a timeline or schedule that they recommend the board and district follow moving forward. Their schedule begins this month and goes through next December. The first several months will be spent on rebuilding trust and creating transparency. Next will be creating engagement through activities and events. Then they will collect information from community members and analyze that to help create a proposal.
The board will also be holding work sessions to explore facility needs and the vision for the future, with the first session scheduled for Monday, Feb. 7, at 5 p.m.