School upgrades on the way

Published 10:23 am Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Local schools are on their way to getting a few basic upgrades.

The Austin Public Schools board chose low bidder Ulland Brothers Inc. at a board meeting Monday evening for three sets of construction projects to improve Ellis Middle School, Woodson Kindergarten Center and the district’s interest in Todd Park’s baseball/softball fields.

“We’re doing a lot of different projects within the scope of the live referendum that was passed last year,” said Finance and Operations Director Mark Stotts. “Because bids came in so favorably, we’ve been able to include items we didn’t necessarily think we’d be able to afford.”

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Improvements on Woodson, which the board approved for about $50,000, will include replacing the asphalt parking lot on the north side of the school and in the “Critter Line” area to the south of the main parking lot, widening the delivery entrance concrete, replacing the asphalt playground path and adding drain tiles to the playground.

At Ellis, $316,000 for improvements include replacing the asphalt on the west side of the building, reconfiguring the cul de sac at the southwest corner, replacing asphalt on the vacated Sixth Avenue and restoring and cleaning the stream banks along the south side, replacing the asphalt and retaining wall at the delivery area, and replacing the asphalt in the staff parking lot.

Work at Todd Park will accommodate the district’s need for additional baseball/softball fields in place of the ones demolished to make way for the incoming I.J. Holton Intermediate School. Improvements, which will cost about $86,000, include construction of a new softball field, renovations to field No. 7 for baseball, construction of new batting cages, expansion of the parking lot near field No. 10 and putting in a new walking path from that parking area to the new softball field.

The city of Austin agreed to provide the property for the fields and maintain them so long as the school district pays to have them built.

“The City Council has already approved these improvements,” Stotts said.


Other business

During the meeting, board members also:

—Decided to approve the course registration guide for the 2013-2014 school year. Austin High School Principle Brad Bergstrom and Assistant Principal Stacy Shultz said the registration process has been changed to better meet students’ needs and place them in the appropriate classes from the beginning.

Board Member Kathy Green said the changes showed a positive evolution for the high school.

Board Member Angie Goetz agreed.

“This is such a personal approach for such a large high school,” Goetz said. “I think it’s fantastic.”

—Heard an update on Positive Behavior Intervention in early childhood aimed toward making clear to preschoolers what constitutes good and bad behavior and encouraging improvement. The changes are expected to cut down on dropout rates and class disruptions while boosting test scores and comprehension.

“It’s hard when kids don’t know how to behave,” said Amy Baskin, community education director.

—Accepted gifts of $500 from the Northwestern Singers for Southgate’s music department; $440 for Woodson’s snack fees from the Austin Area Realtors Association; and a total of $510 from four donors to cover expenses for the district’s new Trapshooting Team.

—Heard an update on construction progress at the new intermediate school. I.J. Holton Principal Jean McDermott said construction is on schedule despite some colder weather, which recently slowed its pace. Roofing is nearly finished on the building and windows will soon be put in place.

—Approved updated policies on naming school facilities and the rules of extracurricular transportation.

—Were appointed as committee members for the five school board committees and representatives for about 20 outside groups, like the Austin Park and Recreation Board and Gifted and Talented Advisory Committee.