By Kelsey Ryan
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Members of the Joplin Board of Education on Tuesday night heard enrollment numbers that the superintendent said were cause for celebration.
For 2011-12, the district’s enrollment dropped by 265 students from the previous school year’s figure, presumably because of the May 2011 tornado. So far, the district has gained back 210 students.
“We wrapped our arms around these families and did everything we could to keep them here, and that effort’s paid off,” Superintendent C.J. Huff said. “Those are good numbers and certainly something to celebrate. It’s going to be an exciting place to be. We’re going to have some beautiful schools and some affordable housing for families to live, and this is going to be a bright spot in the Midwest.”
Angie Besendorfer, assistant superintendent, said the head count has continued to rise since the first day of the school. She said the district is up from last year by 131 students at the elementary schools, 51 students at the middle schools and 28 students at the high school.
The board’s discussion Tuesday night focused mainly on the next steps of rebuilding schools destroyed in the tornado. It included construction updates, and what to name new schools and classrooms as buildings are completed.
The panel voted to create committees to discuss naming options for the new elementary schools as well as naming opportunities for areas at the new Joplin High School. Members decided they would keep the traditional names that already are associated with many parts of Joplin High School, such as Kaminsky Gymnasium, and look for other naming opportunities, such as those for athletic fields and classrooms.
The board approved several contracts for the Irving Elementary and East Middle School projects for items including structural steel, concrete, plumbing and electrical work.
Huff said the district is working with the Joplin Museum Complex and the city about removing the sign at the old Joplin High School in the next month or two as construction moves forward.
“That’s an important historical marker for a lot of people in this community, and we’re going to do our part to preserve it,” Huff said.
Mike Johnson, director of construction, told the board that the district has been approved for federal funding for community storm shelters at Irving Elementary and East Middle School, two of the schools that are being rebuilt after they were destroyed in the tornado. The funding for a shelter at the high school has yet to be approved, Johnson said.
Johnson previously noted that the cost estimate for putting in community storm shelters at all of the damaged schools, including the high school, Irving and East, is just more than $5 million. The district’s 15 percent share of that would come to $750,000, with the state picking up 10 percent and the federal government covering the rest.
The board heard from Kim Vann, director of community development, and Kelli Price, communications specialist, about plans for revamping the district’s communications plan. They also unveiled Eddie the Eagle, a cartoon eagle that will be featured in coloring books in an effort to increase school pride throughout the district.
The board reviewed a rough draft of district goals that will be voted on at the September meeting. It is set for Sept. 25 at the administration building on East 32nd Street.
THE JOPLIN SCHOOL BOARD on Tuesday approved the school district’s tax rate at $3.66 per $100 of assessed valuation. The total reflects the 35-cent levy increase voters approved in April in their endorsement of a $62 million bond issue in connection with the rebuilding effort.