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Ringgold elementary school to go modular

| Thursday, June 16, 2011

NEW EAGLE — At a sometimes-heated special meeting Wednesday night, the Ringgold School Board approved the purchase of modular classrooms for Gastonville Elementary.

Fifth-graders at the school will occupy the units.

The six-classroom module will cost the district roughly $370,000. The board will open bids for the corridor that will join the classrooms on Monday.

The purchase passed by a 5-4 vote that did not receive a ringing endorsement from those in attendance.

"What you basically did was purchased a $380,000 mobile home," resident Bob Smith said.

According to the state construction code, the building must have a foundation. Representatives of HHSDR Architects and Engineers informed the board that Union Township approved the modular classrooms without a foundation. Instead the proposal called for using tie-downs, which provide stability in the absence of foundations.

Residents complained that based on recent windy weather, tie-downs would be unacceptable.

A foundation would cost an additional $12,600.

Director Chuck Smith moved to table the purchase until next week, when the board has its regular meeting. It was defeated by a 5-4 vote.

Smith argued that instead of spending $380,000 on trailers, why not look into an addition to the existing building that would house permanent classrooms.

"What is the point of putting trailers at the school that we are definitely going to keep," Smith said. "Why not just add the classrooms that will be there for 50 years."

Director Marie Ripepi asked the HHSDR representatives how much an addition would cost. The estimate was $250,000 to $300,000 per classroom.

Board President Bill Stein Jr. said the extra classrooms must be available in September, claiming there is no time to build.

Chuck Smith offered another suggestion.

"Instead of closing Monongahela Elementary or Donora Elementary, why don't we put the fifth-graders there?" Smith asked. "We can put whichever grades there; the buildings are viable.

"There are kids there now, so obviously (the buildings) are safe and can be occupied. Let's keep one or both open for one more year so we have time to really sit back and think about this."

The idea received thunderous applause from residents.

"I have three kids, one in the system and two more on the way," resident Jim Dodd said. "I'd be pretty opposed, as a parent, if my child had to go to school in a trailer."

The modular classrooms would not have running water or restrooms.

"The reality is, we needed a new building," Stein said.

Director Mariann Bulko agreed.

"Right now, because of the economy, we can't do it," Bulko said. "There is a lot of brainstorming that needs to go on."

Prior to the meeting, Stein said there would be no discussion on the Finley Middle School roof project or the proposed closing of Monongahela Elementary Center and Donora Elementary Center.

In other business, the board:

• Approved a $22,500 proposal from WBCM Architecture to evaluate the structural condition of Finley Middle School.

• Approved a $3,750 payment to Geomechanics Consulting for a pyrite cost estimate for Finley Middle School.

• Tabled a $28,800 WBCM proposal for quarterly structural monitoring of Finley Middle School.

Budget

In a short budget workshop after the meeting, Superintendent Gary Hamilton said one more teacher has resigned.

He said the district will be able to recall three furloughed teachers because one teacher is moving, another is taking a sabbatical leave, and another teacher is needed because of increased kindergarten class size at Gastonville.

That leaves the district with two furloughed teachers.

"I may have another resignation coming in within the next few days," Hamilton said. "That would leave us with one (furlough)."

If only one teacher remains on furlough, that educator would become the preferred substitute and would work most of the year, Hamilton said.

Ripepi asked Hamilton to look into hiring either another nurse or medical assistant for the high school.

"It's impossible for one nurse to have the responsibility of over 1,000 students. She needs help," Ripepi said of the nurse.

Hamilton asked the board to consider hiring another nurse or a nursing assistant, as well as two hall monitors.

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