Superintendent Monthly Update: February 2022
The Bond | The 2022-23 School Calendar
Jon Rother on January 27, 2022
Superintendent Monthly Update
By Jon Rother
On May 10, 2022, Johnson County Central voters will decide whether to build a new facility for the education and safety of all students and personnel in our district. In doing so, they will weigh an important question: how do we most efficiently and effectively use our limited economic resources for the good of our school district and meet the needs of our current and future students? Are our resources better devoted to repairing our current facilities or should we build a new, single site facility?
These are difficult questions to which there are no easy answers. We have grappled with the issues and worked with members of the community since at least 2018 to try and develop a solution that best balances the many different considerations that must be taken into account. For some voters, this will be their first opportunity to vote on a bond issue such as this. Others may have voted on bond issues in the mid-1970s or the late 1990s. For the former Tecumseh district, the mid-1960s bond was to build the current high school building. For the former Nemaha Valley district, the late 1990s bond was to upgrade and add to the Cook Site facilities with classrooms and a competition gym.
The JCC Building Steering Committee (made up from residents across our district) has recommended to the School Board that it propose a construction bond to the voters in the May 2022 primary election. If passed, the money raised from the bonds sold would be used to build a new, single-site facility in Tecumseh. This determination was made after a months-long review of factors such as:
- aging facilities that are in need of repair and do not meet current fire safety or ADA standards;
- safety and security needs of our students and faculty;
- educational and technological needs that differ from the past; and
- inefficiencies caused by the use of multiple facilities and separation of students and staff;
- current low interest rate environment
Beyond that, the Steering Committee addressed the cultural and community impact of having a new facility in one location vs. renovating the facilities in their current locations. They researched what options could potentially exist for facilities that would no longer be utilized (in whole or in part) under the different options considered. Many other factors were contemplated as well.
As of this writing, the estimated cost to renovate JCC’s current facilities to meet our current needs are as follows:
JCC Tecumseh Elementary (built 1931) = $6.5 million
JCC Cook Site (built 1958 & 1999) = $9.8 million
JCC High School (built 1966) = $10 million
TOTAL = $26.3 million
The renovations needed relate to major issues such as replacing the buildings’ HVAC systems (including boilers); asbestos remediation; updating the buildings to meet fire safety codes and ADA requirements; fixing the buildings’ roofs; updates for safety and security to include entrances, windows and interior doors; and updating telephone and IT capabilities.
In May 2021, we initially estimated that a new PK-12 facility would cost approximately $56-$61 million and would be roughly 155,765 sq. ft. Since that time, using input from staff and the Steering Committee, we were able to substantially modify this estimate after discussions with both Clark Enerson (engineering team) and Boyd Jones (construction team). Currently, we believe that the needed square footage for a new PK-12 facility is approximately 125,700 sq. ft. and will cost approximately $42.5 to $43.5 million.
The proposed facility would accommodate all educational and extracurricular services for grades PK-12 except Industrial Arts (shop classes) and the wrestling room. It would also house all staff except the superintendent’s office, the business office, and the technology coordinator’s office. Shop space, wrestling room(s), superintendent’s office, business office and the technology office would all be maintained in the current high school building with minimal renovations needed.
A few dates concerning the bond to make note of:
February 9, 2022 - JCC School Board to approve resolution calling for the bond election.
March 1, 2022 - Deadline for JCC School Board to file bond resolution with the Johnson County Election Commissioner.
May 2, 2022 - Last day for in-person voter registration.
May 2, 2022 - Last day to receive an application for early voting ballots to be mailed to a specific address.
May 9, 2022 - Last day for early voting in-person at the county clerk’s office.
May 10, 2022 - Primary election.
The following are some key Nebraska legislation that can impact a bond resolution in our district:
LB 2 - LB 2 took effect this January of 2022. It states that when repaying school bonds, agricultural and horticultural land is valued at 50% of its actual value. Prior to the passage of this bill, agricultural and horticultural land was valued at 75% of its actual value. The full bill can be seen here: https://nebraskalegislature.gov/FloorDocs/107/PDF/Final/LB2.pdf
LB 890 - This bill is proposed by Senator Walz of Columbus. LB890 is a new funding formula providing additional state aid to schools and in turn reducing the reliance on property tax asking for school districts. If passed it would be phased in over two years. In its current form, the bill would allow JCC to lower the current tax asking by almost 14 cents on the dollar equating to approximately $1,051,000. Thus, JCC’s levy would go from 99 cents to 85 cents. The full bill as presented can be seen here: https://nebraskalegislature.gov/FloorDocs/107/PDF/Intro/LB890.pdf
LB 891 - LB 891 proposes to change the distribution of sales tax revenue, school levy limitations, and other tax and school provisions. LB 890 and 891 are to be a package proposal. 890 will go to the Education Committee and 891 will go to the Revenue Committee. The full bill as introduced can be seen here: https://nebraskalegislature.gov/FloorDocs/107/PDF/Intro/LB891.pdf
I understand that I’ve only provided a high-level overview of the anticipated project in this letter and that there will be many questions about this topic. We welcome those questions. Over the course of the next month, we will be scheduling informational sessions and otherwise getting more information to everyone through social media and the internet. Additionally, you should feel free to ask questions of the Steering Committee or School Board members. If you have a question, others may have that question as well. We will work to answer those questions to the best of our ability.
Once the bond resolution has been approved, I will be able to provide some more numbers in the March newsletter concerning tax impact on individuals. You can expect to see finalized building plans in the March newsletter as well. Stay tuned!
The 2022-2023 School Calendar
When developing a school calendar there are a couple numbers that must be considered.
- Teacher Contract Days = 185 days
- Required Student Hours = 1080 hours grades 6-12, 1032 hours grades 1-5, 400 hours Kindergarten, 450 hours Preschool
- Our current high school day is 6.97 hours. The 2021-2022 calendar of 175 student days adds up to approximately 1,204 student hours or 18 days more than what is required.
- The current middle school day is 6.7 hours. This makes approximately 1,158 student hours or almost 12 days more than what is required.
- The elementary school day is 6.63 hours at 175 student days. This puts the elementary school at approximately 1,146 student hours or roughly 17 days over the state requirement.
Going beyond what the state requires for student hours is not a bad thing. My only point is to show that we have plenty of student hours as dictated by the law.
There really is no rhyme or reason to when the school calendar starts other than tradition. “Traditionally” school starts the 2nd or 3rd week of August. In Johnson and Otoe Counties, this usually coincides with the county fair. Therefore, we try to support our families involved in fair activities by either not having school around the weekend of the fair, or making allowances for those students and staff involved to maintain their involvement. Also to be considered are the many, many meetings that school staff attend to kick off the school year. These usually entail the review of practices, policies and procedures, mandatory training required by Nebraska Department of Education, any district improvement initiatives and planning out the school day for teachers, support staff and students. That being said, we are usually pressed for time in preparing for the school year as we also intend to continue to have open houses prior to the start of school.
For the sake of efficiency and predictability, I am proposing a somewhat different calendar. The new calendar will only have two days that are early dismissals: the first and last days of the school year. Early dismissal days can be haphazard and rushed, leaving staff depleted of their energy and attention spans to attend any staff development…especially on a Friday! All teacher in-service days will be on Mondays with no school for students. The only exception to this is the February 3 ESU4 Engaging Educators Conference. This will serve two purposes. The first is to allow plenty of time for in-service training and district wide planning. The second is to allow parents, students and staff to make appointments on these days. My hope is that we will cut down the amount of instructional time lost due to the various appointments people (students AND staff) must attend. From a systems standpoint, I would much rather have staff miss an in-service day than an instructional day with students. This should also decrease the number of substitute teachers needed. I understand, of course, that there are times when we cannot dictate appointments and there will be times these appointments will fall on a day other than a Monday.
Parent-Teacher conferences would also be held on Mondays. I understand that not everyone can make a Monday work for conferences, however this is the case now that not everyone can make the conference dates work. I know the teachers have done a good job of making themselves available to parents wanting to set up a conference time other than what is scheduled as “Parent-Teacher Conferences”.
Using (roughly) every other Monday as a teacher in-service days would give the district 185 teacher contracted days and 166 student days. This would still give the high school approximately 1,150 student hours, the middle school 1,105 student hours and the elementary school 1,094 student hours. Should there be a need to make up any student hours (due to snow days or any other unforeseen circumstances), we would simply convert a teacher work day to a regular school day. I am providing the proposed calendar for your perusal. As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns!