CARTHAGE, Mo. — Construction of a performing arts center and expansion of Tech Center programs are the top two priorities for the Carthage School District, according to the latest Carthage 2020 and Beyond meeting survey.

The Board of Education anticipated those two priorities when it met Monday night, but a recommendation that the third priority for the district be the expansion of Advanced Placement and dual credit courses did come as a surprise to the panel.

School Superintendent Mark Baker introduced the overall survey results from the spring community meeting and discussed a full list of recommendations based on the data. The school board will review the data over the next month and will make a decision of what to pursue next year.

Carthage 2020 and Beyond, the district’s long-term proposal for what lies ahead, has been discussed in a series of monthly meetings with parents, students and administrators who have provided feedback of the needs and priorities of the schools. The plan is an extension of Carthage 2020, which was originally designed for the district eight years ago.

Baker said Carthage 2020 and Beyond was established with the aim to make the district the best school district in Southwest Missouri. He said the district received 359 responses from students, staff and residents to its overall survey of the community in an April meeting.

“This is something that semi surprised us a little bit because we’ve focused so much on it the past eight years from Carthage 2020, but again, it’s very important, and we’re going to continue to strive to reach some courses that we have not offered yet,” Baker told the board in reference to the third top priority.

Other top priorities mentioned in the survey included expanded mental health awareness, improving life skills, improving what happens after high school, expanded civic courses, and improvement of public speaking skills.

“We broke it down into different groups and one group was the students who responded to the survey,” said Baker. “The performing arts center was number one for the students, but number two was more mental health awareness, more education. That should tell us something as adults that our kids are feeling this, and we need to do something about it.”

Areas where improvement is needed include communication regarding scheduling and required courses, the expansion of dual language to other schools, and a newcomer transition center.

Baker then gave the board his recommendations on how to pursue the top priorities and what it would take to achieve them. He combined several of the priorities together because some topics couldn’t wait until the first few were achieved, such as the expansion of mental health awareness.

In order for the performing arts center to be built, he recommended formation of a committee to begin raising funds. He estimates that it could initially cost anywhere from $15 million to $20 million to build.

For the expansion of tech center programs and to add classrooms to the South Tech Center, Baker proposed placing a bond issue on the April 2020 ballot.

Another recommendation to increase AP and dual-credit courses is to direct high school administrators to review additional course options. As far as expanding mental health awareness and the other areas of improvement, Baker said they will need to hire additional staff in order to meet those needs. The full list of survey results and recommendations will be posted to the district's website shortly.

Tax rate

In other news, the Carthage School Board conducted a hearing and set the tax rate for the 2019-2020 school year. Jeff Jones, board president, said the rate will stay the same as last year’s at $3.98 total levy per $100 of assessed valuation. This is composed of $2.75 for operations, 83 cents for debt service and 40 cents for capital projects. For the sake of example, the owner of a $100,000 home would pay $756.20 annually based on the total levy. School officials project that the levy will generate $12.9 million in revenue in 2019-2020.

News reporter

Kimberly Barker is a news reporter for The Globe who covers Northeast Oklahoma, Southeast Kansas, as well as Carl Junction and Webb City.

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