Fayetteville School District to outsource cleaning, redesign playground pending board approval

Posted: January 26, 2018 at 1:05 a.m.

Submitted image The board will be asked during the February meeting to approve the estimated $574,118 redesign of the playground at Washington Elementary School at 425 Highland Ave.

FAYETTEVILLE -- School administrators presented plans for a new playground, discussed the need to contract custodial services and proposed the addition of seventh-grade athletics at the school board meeting Thursday night.

The playground at Washington Elementary has been a 100-year-old headache fraught with drainage and erosion issues that can leave rocks and glass exposed, according to officials.

Online public comment

Anyone interested in commenting on proposed Fayetteville Public School Board policies can now go through the district website at http://district.fayar.net to do so.

Once on the school district website, the tab can be found by clicking on “Leadership” then “Beard of Education” and finally “Proposed New & Revised Board Policies.”

Comments will be reviewed by the board prior to the next meeting of the school board where the policy is presented as an action item.

Current policies up for revision include transportation eligibility, drugs and alcohol, student dress, students’ vehicles and emergency drills.

Source: Staff report

"While important improvements have been made over the years, the time has come to invest in solving these issues for the long term," Superintendent Matthew Wendt said.

The long-term solution presented comes in the amount of more than $574,000 through Crafton Tull. It might sound steep but "because the situation is so unique, there's nothing we can really compare this to," said Bob Maranto board member.

The school's urban location does not allow for the playground to be moved to a different area, many board members agreed.

Crafton Tull provided the district with a plan that will provide safe play areas, turf, landscaping, appropriate drainage, mulch, fencing, aeration, backfill and more, Wendt said.

"It will solve the problem," said John L Colbert, associate superintendent for support services.

With board approval, demolition on the playground will begin in the summer and should be complete by the beginning of the 2018-19 school year.

In other business, Wendt gave a recommendation to contract out the custodial services at Fayetteville High to SSC Services for Education for 15 months starting March 19.

"I actually have no desire to recommend this to the board. I've drug my feet. We ran out of solutions," Wendt said. "There has not been one day I've served as your superintendent that we have had a full custodial staff."

Custodial staff already within the district will be move so that kindergarten though eighth grade and other buildings are fully staffed. This leaves a large vacancy at the high school that would be filled with staff through SSC.

"The applicant pool is shallow," Wendt said. "We would love to hire our own people, but we need our high school clean."

No custodian currently employed with the district is losing a job, wages or benefits, Wendt said.

There is a neutral impact on the district's finances. The 15-month costs of the sixteen custodians' salaries, benefits and cleaning supplies amounts to $968,238. The 15-month proposed contract for custodial services by SSC is $963,640, which covers all costs associated with their employees, supplies and equipment, according to the proposal.

Bentonville, Rogers and other districts in the state use SSC, Colbert said.

"They have a good solid record of doing a great job," Colbert said.

Some of the board members expressed skepticism of the idea but acknowledged it was a last resort. Colbert said Wendt stressed the desire for this to be a temporary solution.

Colbert said he hopes they can learn from what SSC does to better recruit and retain employees. Wendt said the district should, as a long term solution, invest in vocational training for students to "grow our own."

Wendt asked for approval of this recommendation at the February board meeting.

Athletic Director Steve Janski recommended the board approve adding seventh-grade athletics. If approved, seventh-graders at Woodland and Ramay Junior High Schools will be able to try out for volleyball, football, cross country, basketball, track, cheer and dance.

It will cost $374,000 in additional staff salary and benefits and other costs like uniforms and game operations. Wendt said $50,000 have been set aside through years of donations that can be used for startup costs.

Fayetteville seventh-grade teams would compete with surrounding school teams in the Northwest Arkansas Athletic Conference. Most of the surrounding school districts already offer seventh-grade athletics, Janski said.

This opportunity would lead to greater school pride, family involvement and academic accountability as well as allowing students to explore their interests and be a part of a team, Woodland Principal David McClure said.

Janski said 472 students currently participate in eighth-grade athletics, and they anticipate 515, or 70 percent, will participate in seventh-grade athletics.

The proposal includes two teaching/coaching positions at each junior high. There are 72 coaches in the district, Janski said.

"Personally, I'm a little reluctant to support it," Moranto said. "A lot of coaches are wonderful in the classroom but sometimes there are coaches that see teaching as their secondary job. I think athletics can support academics, but sometimes there can be trade-offs."

Wendt said that concern is a part of the conversation. Other board members said they don't see this being as much of a concern at the junior high level.

This proposal will also be up for approval next month.

The board voted at once to unanimously approve new and revised policies presented at past meetings. These policies include concurrent credit, attendance requirements, school choice and equal educational opportunity.

NW News on 01/26/2018