The Pratt school district's maintenance building at 1007 West Fifth has been targeted for repairs or replacement for many years. A facilities study done prior to construction of the new high school indicated at that time that the 1930s-era block building was not sound, had original electrical, lighting and heating installations, no air conditioning and gaps in the walls large enough to see outside.
The USD 382 Board of Education took a look at the building Monday night prior to a regular meeting and confirmed "what we already know," according to Superintendent Suzan Patton. The visit is part of an overall study as the district gets ready to develop a strategic plan for the next three years.
"Clint (Jones, director of transportation) and Mike (Quint, maintenance and grounds director) work hard and we would love to be able to furnish the things they need," Patton said, adding that when the board visits career and technical areas in the old part of the high school next month, and Liberty Middle School, she's sure they will feel the same way.
The first-hand look at facilities that the board requested will help them make informed decisions and set priorities, Patton said.
She said the district is "very solid; we feel very positive about how we're sitting financially." She is, however, aware that the situation can change, depending on actions taken by the Kansas Legislature during the current session.
Of particular concern is Gov. Sam Brownback's proposal to eliminate the state's income tax, reducing revenue available for funding education, and putting a greater burden on property tax in local districts. She and members of the Board are in Topeka today, attending a governmental relations conference organized by the Kansas State Board of Education.
Another resource for developing the strategic plan is information gained from a parent survey that will remain on the district's website through the end of February and is also available as a printed copy at schools and the administrative office. It can be mailed out on request.
Parents are asked to answer questions about whether their child(ren) like school, feel safe there and are respected; whether teachers, administrators and Board of Education members are accessible and willing to listen to ideas and concerns; whether they are well informed about what's going on at school and how they gain their information; and if students are receiving appropriate education.
There are a couple of specific questions: "In 5 to 8 years, I would support using district funds in a joint effort with the city and Pratt Community College to build a track and field facility" and "If the state cuts funding, I would support a tax increase for the district to provide well-maintained buildings, quality educators and updated technology."
Page 2 of 2 - What they learn from the survey "will either affirm what we're doing or give us pause to take another look," Patton said. "We constantly need to evaluate. We always want to be improving."
An updated crisis plan is nearly complete, Patton said, and bids are being taken to install a buzz-in entry system at the ACE building, which houses administrative offices and district preschool classes. All other attendance centers have secure entrances.
She is also researching the possibility of offering a summer lunch program that would provide free meals to children from age one to 18.
"We know there are children in our community that are hungry," Patton said. "We feel there is a need and it's a need we can fill."
A program could be funded by a federal grant, but Patton has not learned yet if all costs would be covered, or if it would be a feasible project for the Pratt district. Similar programs are available in Great Bend, Stafford and St. John schools, she said.
The district participates in the Backpacks for Kids program through the Kansas Food Bank that provides food for children during weekends when school is in session. The program is handled by school nurse Glenda Houdyshell, and is done "very delicately," so no one knows who is getting backpacks.