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Plato plans to improve school gym
Plato plans to improve school gym

Plato R-V School Board member Dewayne Baker explains the proportions of items that will be used in building new bleachers during the Nov. 13 school board meeting.
PLATO, Mo. (Nov. 14, 2008) — Fixing problems in the Plato school gym became the focus of attention at Thursday night’s Plato R-V School Board meeting.

Board member Dewayne Baker said he’s spoken to representatives of the Lakeside Truss Company in Crocker and they’ve designed a wood-frame truss that would be used as the base for future bleacher seating. A labor estimate hasn’t yet been calculated, Baker said, but he estimated the final total cost including labor would likely reach $25,000 to $30,000.

“If we built that, there would still be a platform until we got the seats, right?” asked Board President Mike Friend.

Baker said that’s correct, and noted that several different efforts are underway in an attempt to purchase bleacher seating and other improvements for the bleachers.

“As you know, there’s been a private fund started to buy seats down at the Legacy Bank. Anybody who wants to donate to it can, and if you donate $100, you’ll get your name on a seat,” Baker said. “I’ve had many, many, many of the elderly in the community say they want to make sure they’ve got a handrail so they can get up there, and I haven’t yet calculated the cost, but we’re going to need to have something substantial there.”

The total number of available seats will depend on the handrail construction and the number of aisles, but Baker said he believes the design under consideration will provide 375 to 425 seats.

The project might be cheaper with community help, Baker said.

“Do we want to reach out to the community and say, ‘We’re going to build these bleachers, who wants to come and help us?’ The Lions Club has offered, probably not a lot of money, but probably a lot of labor,” Baker said. “I think if we’re patient we can just get those seats, either by people giving us enough money that we can go out and buy some, or finding some used that we can get donated to us.”

Baker said he’s been very surprised by the cost of seating, which is running $150 to $200 per seat or more. Some of the less expensive seats are problematic because they won’t support the weight of heavier people, he said.

Board member Patti Niebruegge said it’s important to give people a clear estimate on how much it will cost to buy seats if school representatives expect to receive donations.

“People need to know what we are looking at spending,” Niebruegge said.

“I know, but if we give a high-dollar number, people will say that’s ridiculous and give up,” Baker said.

Board members discussed when to begin the bleacher project so it won’t interfere with sporting events or graduation. The only practical time is mid-spring, board members agreed, and decided hiring labor rather than working with volunteers may be unavoidable to prevent disruptions to the sports season or graduation caused by construction delays.

“Remember, it never takes just the amount of time you think it will take you,” Niebruegge said.

Board member Doug Caldwell suggested trying to get a carpenter who is a Plato alumnus to do the work for a lower rate, but Superintendent Leon Slape said that may not work due to prevailing wage laws that establish minimum payments that government agencies must pay for different categories of labor.

“Legally, we have to pay prevailing wage unless it is a job we bid out, and then they still have to pay prevailing wage to their workers,” Slape said.

“This will be done in March and there’s not a lot of work in March. Maybe we can find somebody who is willing to work at a time there’s not a lot of work,” Baker said.

Plato Middle School Principal Karissa McNiel said she was concerned by the schedule.

“Is there going to be enough time between now and the next board meeting for us to get his plans done and get this advertised and get bids on the material?” McNiel asked.

Slape said the decision would likely have to be made at the January rather than the December board meeting.

A different gym project proposal didn’t fare as well. Slape suggested that board members consider taking down past banners for various wins in prior years by Plato athletes.

“The banners in the gymnasium look pretty bad and it’s difficult to place them in the gymnasium,” Slape said. “They get dusty and dirty; they’re hard to take down and clean. I’ve been to a lot of other gyms recently where you have a nice board where it lists everything they have accomplished, say, in baseball.”

Niebruegge said she understood the reason for Slape’s proposal.

“The only problem I have with that it some of them have names on them of kids who played,” Niebruegge said. “I don’t have a problem with what you’re saying because I agree they’re getting to look bad up there, but there’s a lot of pride in them. Kids look up and say, ‘There’s my dad,’ and I’d hate to take that away from kids.”

Caldwell said he’s one of the affected former Plato athletes.

“I hear what you’re saying, but I appreciate the names up there, especially the banner with my name on it,” Caldwell said.

In other business:

• Plato has three school board positions open for the April election, two for three years and one for two-years, that are currently held by Penny Morrison, Mike Friend and Pete Scurlock. Filing opens on Dec. 16.

• Board members decided to continue paying for their role in an ongoing school funding lawsuit that is headed for the Missouri Supreme Court and agreed to contribute $315 — Plato’s share at a rate of 50 cents per student — in their ninth assessment for legal funds to pay for the lawsuit.

• Board members recognized two teams of Plato students who went to state-level grassland competition for the Future Farmers of America. Students involved were Danielle Zaborsky, Maylia Burgess, Ashley Peck, Megan Murry, Charlee Hildebrand, Katheryn Massey, Caylen Cantrell, Samantha Overman.

“Grasses are hard to identify — there are so many different varieties,” Slape said. “It takes a lot of study.”

• Slape reported that a regional school board member training session will be held at Plato with 16 hours of training offered to board members. Related to that, board members agreed to move the next meeting to Dec. 8, which is a change from the regular Thursday night meeting to a Monday night meeting.

• McNiel reported that there have been problems converting student data records from the old Limberger computer program to the district’s new Lumen Technologies program.

“Attendance we are pretty sure was accurate, but on discipline, we have had some concerns about how things were entered and now they are processed,” McNeil said. “You can sometimes run two different reports and get two different answers.”

Following the board meeting, Slape clarified that Plato’s problems don’t include grades, unlike computer data transfer problems that hit the Laquey R-V School District following a program change that affected student grades and changed the top-10 ranking for last year’s graduating class.

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