Meeker school will remain closed until next fall

A temporary arrangement to house Meeker Elementary School students elsewhere apparently will continue throughout the academic year.

Structural repairs to the year-old building will take longer to complete than originally hoped, and it’s not expected to reopen before next fall, Meeker School District Superintendent Susan Goettel said.

The situation may have played a role in the results of the district’s recent school board election, in which the three board incumbents received the fewest votes of five candidates, and only one was re-elected.

“I think that for sure the school situation and not being in the new school was a contributing factor,” said Marnell Bradfield, the top vote-getter with 703 votes.

She and fellow newcomer Kurtis Blunt will join incumbent Mindy Burke on the board. Incumbents Edward Coryell and Mary Strang lost the election, with Strang, the board president, receiving the fewest votes, 395.

Bradfield said other factors may have included how long some of the incumbents had been on the board, and the fact she and Blunt are active in the community. Bradfield said she has volunteered in the schools for 16 years.

Problems with the elementary school first were discovered shortly after it opened last year. Movement was found where the gym and roof met, and it was repaired with bracing. A subsequent engineering review led to the recommendation that similar repairs be done elsewhere in the building.

That led to a two-week delay in the start of this school year for its 340 or so students, as arrangements were made for them to be taught elsewhere. Since then, fifth-grade classes have been held at Barone Middle School, second- through fourth-graders have been taught at Meeker High School, classes for preschool through first-grade are taking place at the administration building, and district offices have been located in a church hall basement.

Goettel said the school repairs have yet to begin.

“Right now we’re still just finalizing all of the needed repairs, working through permitting processes and so forth,” she said.

Meanwhile, students have adjusted to the new routines, she said.

“I think things are flowing as well as can be expected,” she said.

Bradfield said she has a child who was affected. While both teachers and children have proven to be resilient, “it’s definitely been not an ideal situation for any of the parents who have kids in the elementary school and the teachers. I mean, it’s a hardship on the community all around.”

The Neenan Co., which built the school, committed to cover all costs related to the repairs and temporary relocation of classes.

Some in the district had questioned the no-bid nature of the design-build contract awarded to Neenan. Strang had defended the contract, saying it saved $1 million, and bidding still occurred in the hiring of subcontractors and purchases of materials.


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