Warren BOE approves gas line removal

VINCENT — An unmapped gas line on the property where the Warren Local school district building project is taking place provided an unwelcome surprise this month.

The board of education Monday night approved a resolution to allow superintendent Kyle Newton to contract for the line’s removal.

“Did we find a record of this in the courthouse?” board member Bob Allen asked.

“It was not in what you’d call a normal location. We had to go into the historical documents area, back to 1925,” Newton said.

“Did we have a title opinion? We’ve had title searches and opinions,” Allen said. “That was a six-inch line, if it was penetrated in construction, we could have had a major fire.”

Newton said he was having a report prepared.

“We want to know where the breakdown was. There are multiple steps going back years where this should have been found,” he said. “I want a summary of how many times it was missed, and why. Even with the middle school renovation, it should have come up then, and that was five years ago.”

The district is in the process of building two new schools and extensively expanding and renovating a third on the Warrior Drive property after a successful bond levy in 2017. The foundation work is under way for the elementary school, and site preparation has begun for the high school. The project is budgeted at more than $63 million. The district already has struck an agreement to cap two gas wells on the property.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the board also received a massive rewriting of its policy manual from board member and policy committee chair Debbie Proctor.

Newton said the changes were extensive because the manual hadn’t been thoroughly updated for several years.

It included, he said, an expanded section on student and parent policy regarding interscholastic athletics. That policy section also was condensed into a three-panel pamphlet summarizing sportsmanship expectations, unacceptable behavior, and a strike policy regarding parents, guardians and spectators who violate policy.

Newton told the board that all teaching positions in the district, barring unexpected retirements or resignations, are now filled.

He said after the meeting that teacher turnover has stabilized considerably in the past few years.

“When I started seven years ago, we’d have 16 or 18 leaving, and most of that was boomers retiring, but we also had some moving elsewhere,” he said. “We’re retaining our teachers now, we only lost six this year and last year.”

Newton also noted that nearly all the teachers hired in the past few years have classroom experience. Many rural districts serve as first-job locations for teachers fresh out of school, who move on after gaining some experience.

“We’re not that district,” he said.

Newton estimated the teaching staff district-wide to be about 135.

The building project continues to go well, he told the board, showing them slides of 3-D illustrations now on the district’s website which show the finished buildings down to classroom detail.

Footings are being poured for the elementary school, with utility routes being cut into the foundations.

“The trades, plumbing and electric, are on the site,” he said, showing an aerial photo of the site in which utility trenches crossed the interior of the footings and block walls were beginning to rise.

The next board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 19 in the administrative offices on Sweetapple Road.

Michael Kelly can be reached at mkelly@mariettatimes.com