Concordia Middle School will remain open

By Jessica LeDuc
Blade staff writer

Fifth and sixth grade students will still be moving, but now the Concordia Middle School won't be closing. Instead, the USD 333 Board of Education unanimously voted to close Lincoln School at its regular meeting Monday night.
Last Fall, at the recommendation of an educational consultant, the Board approved closing the Middle School facility to reduce operating costs, and moving the fifth and six grade students to the Junior-Senior High School building. The Board went through that legal process, having public meetings, a public hearing, and passing a resolution to close the building.
But last night, USD 333 Superintendent Bev Mortimer said before getting to the point of no return in closing the Middle School, she wants to take a step back and look at both buildings.
"I don't think we can give up the gym space or locker rooms," Mortimer said.
She said members of the track team use the field across the street from the Middle School for practice, and in the event of severe weather, they would have nowhere to go if the school was closed. In addition, she said, the gym is used for indoor practices. Rather than using the old gym at the Junior-Senior High School for baseball's indoor practices, she said they could use the Middle School gym.
"We don't want to put ourselves in a position where we run out of practice space," she said.
She also said she isn't comfortable with selling the Middle School when she doesn't know where the district will be in terms of enrollment in five to 10 years. If enrollment goes back up in coming years, the board would still have the option of moving students back there.
By closing Lincoln School, Mortimer said, the Concordia After School Program and the Learning Cooperative of North Central Kansas would be relocated to the Middle School. USD 333 is the host district for LCNCK, and Mortimer said she will bring the proposal to close the Lincoln building to the next meeting of the Cooperative's superintendents.
Board member Chuck Knapp said the Elementary School is at capacity. If a neighboring school were to close and students move to USD 333, he said he is  worried the district would not have room to accommodate them.
"If enrollment rises, we'd need the room, and I'd hate to lose the gym," Knapp said. "It would be a disservice to the community."
Kevin Pounds said the purpose of closing the Middle School was to save the district money, and he would be in favor of keeping it open only if Lincoln School is closed and sold.
"The doors have to close on one of them," Mortimer said.
On a 7-0 vote, the board approved her proposal to close Lincoln School and move forward with selling the property.
The board also approved moving forward with alcohol testing at this month's high school prom.
Junior-Senior High School Principal Quentin Breese said the Concordia Police Department has received grant money to purchase a passive alcohol testing device, which draws and tests air for alcohol.
He said Doug Thoman, the school resource officer, plans to use the device before both prom and the after prom party to test those entering. If it detects alcohol, then officers will give a full breathalyzer test.
"We want to keep the students safe and keep alcohol out of prom," Breese said.
If attendees are found to have alcohol in their system, Breese said, they will be charged with Minor in Consumption. Breese said according to the high school handbook, any student under the age of 18 who is found to have consumed alcohol will be turned over to the school resource office, and taken to juvenile detention. The same will happen on prom night if any offenders are found.
Breese said he will send a letter to parents, as well as use the school's messenger service to get the word out before prom, which is April 27.
The board set Thurs., May 23, as the time and date of the district's auction of surplus material. At 5 p.m. the auction will begin at the nature trail, where bids will be taken for the 6.66 acres tract of land adjacent to the High School practice field. The auction will then move to the former ALCO building, where the district has been storing its surplus items.
The minimum bid for the nature trail land was set at $5,000.
After a 15-minute executive session, the board took final action on the nonrenewal of contract for Sara Harvey, Concordia Middle School Vocal Music Instructor.
The board approved the resignations of Tonya Arias and Anita Breen, and the retirement of Donna Frye, all of whom are interrelated teachers at the LCNCK, and also approved the new hire of Debra Hawkinson, who will be a school psychologist.


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