The Neligh-Oakdale Board of Education tabled action on allowing students in the East Ward basement and on a letter of response to the state fire marshal.
Although an action item on the agenda (item 10c) included “discussion of/ information concerning/ action to approve student occupancy in the basement,” the board didn’t even discuss occupancy once they reached that item.
“I think we’ve exhausted that discussion already,” board president David Wright said, referring to the 30 minute discussion two items earlier, which was “discussion of/ action to approve Building & Grounds letter of response to State Fire Marshal.” That item was tabled.
But prior to discussion of any new business, Angie Belitz questioned the board as to why action was taken at the Feb. 2 special meeting when it was advertised as having no action. Belitz, who said she was present at the meeting in question, quoted the minutes which said, “By the consensus of the board it was decided to hire an interim.”
Belitz’s question came not long after the board approved those special meeting minutes. Wright said, “There was no action at that meeting.” After Belitz spoke, board members rustled through the papers in front of them to read the minutes again. Wright said, "I guess you're suggesting we have to have a correction to our minutes."
No reason was given to Belitz as to why the minutes indicated that action took place.
Following Monday's board meeting, Belitz said she attended last week’s special meeting. “Each board member was asked how they felt about hiring an interim or continuing with a search,” she said. “According to minutes from the Feb. 2 special meeting, it appears they decided to hire an interim, which is action.”
Also during the meeting, Principal Mary Schrader asked the board to consider purchasing a modular on the north side of West Ward for approved classroom space for Title and Special Education for next year. She said West Ward will not have enough room for students next year and will need to move students elsewhere.
Fire Marshal Response
During Monday’s regular board meeting, 23 audience members were present as the board spent 30 minutes discussing the letter of response to the state fire marshal.
The plan was tabled with Building and Grounds Committee members - Wright and Ryan Koinzan - wanting to take action on the basement while members Brad Higgins, Krista Schindler and Chris Ford asked for more information on costs. Sixth member Kenny Reinke, who also serves on the Building and Grounds Committee, did not speak at all during the discussion. Board members received the committee's plan about 2 hours prior to the meeting, Schindler said.
Although the plan is due to the fire marshal on April 1, which is the second extension for the district, both Koinzan and Wright indicated they will not have a full plan complete by that date. The district received 24 points of correction from the state fire marshal, but the plan presented Monday only concerned basement occupancy.
Read the story on the fire marshal clarifying to the board that fire sprinklers are needed in the school even with egress windows.
Koinzan proposed the Board install egress windows in every basement space used for classroom or other educational purpose, as well as secure the necessary finances to ensure the sprinkling of the East Ward facility can be completed within a two year time frame.
No explanation was provided as to what how the finances would be secured.
Superintendent Kimberly Lingenfelter read a statement that said, "Student occupancy is not allowed in the basement until an approved plan is submitted. According to (Assistant Fire Marshal) Don Fritz, the district would be able to allow students to return to basement occupancy with a commitment to bi-monthly fire drills, a fire alarm detection and notification system and egress windows. Please also be advised that egress windows are not necessary if an approved automatic sprinkler system is installed. Also note, installing egress windows also does not eliminate the need or an approved automatic sprinkler system."
The plan presented Monday did not mention fire drills or a fire alarm detection and notification system, simply egress windows for only the basement. Lingenfelter reminded the board that none of the windows at East Ward or the high school have egress windows. Those will all need replaced unless a sprinkler system is installed.
Koinzan said Ron Gilg went to Carhart Lumber last week and told him it would cost $600 per egress window. When asked what the install cost would be, Koinzan said he did not have specific cost but later said he would report back to the board with his findings.
Higgins said he was hesitant in moving ahead with the egress windows in the basement when the rest of the plan had not been discussed. “Why do it if we have to put a sprinkler system in anyway? Why are we having the additional costs in putting the egress windows in?”
Koinzan said he didn’t know what a contractor would charge. Higgins said since the plan wasn’t due until April 1, he preferred to wait to make a decision until the committee had time to gather estimates on the cost of egress windows and a sprinkler system.
What wasn't debated by the board was that students cannot be in the basement classrooms at this time. Although the fire marshal did not officially order students out of the basement or close the basement, he did put forth requirements for the district to meet in order for students to occupy those classrooms. Koinzan said, “Children cannot go into those rooms until we install those windows."
Schindler asked what the hurry was in putting students back into the basement with this partial plan when the full plan is due April 1 and said, “Why can’t we wait until we have those numbers in front of us?”
Koinzan said he didn’t have time to get the estimates because he just received the information on the windows on Friday. When questioned by Wright about her hesitance, Schindler asked him, “If this information was just presented to you two hours ago and you did not have a chance to get the bids, to get any financial information, would you feel comfortable making a vote on that?”
Wright conceded he did not know the costs of the egress windows.
Wright continued to prod the rest of the board into moving forward with immediately putting students back in the basement, but Higgins repeated that he preferred to have a long-range plan for the fire marshal next month, as the state requested, rather than "piecing" together how to fix the school.
“If we don’t know our whole plan of response, which we have to by April 1, what’s the difference in putting this in with our whole response?” Higgin asked.
Higgins said he preferred to table discussion until the entire plan was determined for both the East and West Ward facilities.
“Do you think we’re going to have a plan done in one month?” Wright asked.