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Final design on its way for Solon OEC

SOLON– The Solon school board, on a path to finance a multi-million dollar stadium with a bond funded by sales tax revenues, was expected to open bids this week for field improvements and synthetic turf carpeting for the district’s Outdoor Events Center (OEC).
Specifications for the most recent phase of the OEC project were drawn up by Minnesota firm I&S Group. The project has a final walk-through scheduled for July 13, with a final completion date of July 20, 2012.
Bidding for the field improvements closed Nov. 22.
Included in the field improvement project are removal of the natural grass sod, installation of drainage and field grading, relocation of the long jump pits and construction of run-outs for the track.
Discussion during a regularly-scheduled Nov. 14 school board meeting made it clear that several board members are hesitant to pay for a Spartan logo and sideline lettering beyond regulation football and soccer markings.
The decision to choose additional colors– in particular, Spartan orange– was left in the air. The board asked for those costs to be designated as optional line items in the bids.
The center emblem will cost about $23,000 and the sideline lettering runs about $15,000 for “Solon” on one side and “Spartans” on the other, Superintendent Sam Miller told the board.
One strategy floated by board member Dick Schwab was to use the school’s helmet emblem and sideline lettering to entice sponsors to put donations toward the on-field markers. “See if we can find someone to take the logo,” he challenged those in the room.
Board member Dan Coons indicated he would be willing to drop the sideline lettering, but he and board president Dave Asprey agreed the district could cover costs of the 50-yard-line Spartan helmet logo.
Other improvements needed to complete the OEC will be on the way soon.
The district officially signed an agreement with Shive-Hattery for architectural design services, set at eight percent of the total project, or an estimated fee of $200,000. The agreement calls for board approval of project specifications Dec. 1, and bidding for construction in February and March 2012. Construction could begin as soon as mid-March.
The architect’s designs for a two-tiered bleacher stand, backed by a press and coaches’ box, concessions and restrooms, will come together from work already in progress and contain an option for the construction of two team rooms as part of an alternate bid. The team rooms, which have been a sticking point for the board, would also be used for storage of band, track and football gear.
SAVE (Secure an Advanced Vision for Education) is the state fund which distributes revenue from a one-cent sales tax to all Iowa districts for improvements to school infrastructure. A bond for the OEC will likely be added to one for the nearly-completed Lakeview Elementary project, limiting available SAVE funds in the Solon district for years.

Every classroom surveyed
Inside Solon classrooms, a district-wide initiative to visit each classroom has been progressing nicely, reported Director of Curriculum Matt Townsley and High School Principal Nathan Wears. The visits are part of a district effort by principals, the superintendent and Townsley see every teacher and drop in for a few classroom observations during the year.
Superintendent Miller jokingly complained that Wears had been playing the “Imperial March” from the score of “Star Wars” when he entered rooms, but otherwise principals and staff were pleased with their receptions during the walk-throughs.
Townsley also presented the district’s annual progress report, a state-required update on the level of achievement in math, reading and science. He said he was proud of Solon’s decision to include social studies classes in the assessment. “We have set even broader goals than the annual progress report (required by the state).”
Schwab asked about input from the school improvement advisory committee (SIAC) and Townsley said eighth grade reading was a concern for SIAC.
Some eighth grade teachers have created their own common assessments to compare student proficiency within schools a few times a year, he noted. Townsley hoped more common assessments could be developed in Solon to compare classes and teaching methods and noted that kindergarten through fourth grade students can get additional time and support in reading with a volunteer or another teacher who can help in supplemental reading groups.

New vehicles, new tractors
Solon enrollment is increasing, and through an application to the School Budget Review Committee, the district will ask the state for an increase in its allowable growth. If approved at the school’s projected amount, just five more students, the district will receive an additional $28,000.
The board gave Mike Kasparek, the district’s director of transportation, buildings and grounds the go-ahead to purchase three new transport vehicles, not to exceed $67,000. Two cargo vans and a sedan will replace some of the district’s aging fleet, at least one of which Kasparek said had a problem with rust.
Miller said transportation funding comes from the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL), not the general fund.
The board also approved two tractors for purchase from City Tractor in North Liberty, for a pair of John Deere models with interchangeable accessories.
The district will trade in its older tractors for $14,400. The tractors will come with one set of accessories which includes parts for snow-blower, fork lift, mower and lift parts and will cost $63,965 after the trade-in. Both tractors are equipped with cabs.

More school lunches being served
Assistant Nutrition Program Director Kelly Crossley and Nutrition Program Director Marcia Purington reported some positive improvements during their report on school nutrition. Purington will retire in December and before her exit, she and Crossley have updated the lunch menus to address some common food complaints.
School lunches now use fewer canned goods and more fresh items. A la carte choices have also been expanded.
The changes have brought in more customers and increased participation. Sixty more lunches per day are being served at the elementary and middle schools and the high school demand for hot lunch has also increased by about 45 lunches daily compared to last year.
Crossley said the program still operates in the red, but revenues have increased compared to last year. She hoped to turn around the operating deficit by the end of the year.
Because of the increased demand for lunches, she’s recommended the hiring of four more workers, including an office worker to replace Purington at a payroll cost of about $14,900. Each school would employ a part-time dishwasher who could also do prep work.