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Focus group concludes brainstorming

The last Menahga School building expansion focus group meeting was held Monday night with similar outcomes to the previous ones.

About 30 people attended to brainstorm ideas to help the Menahga School Board propose a feasible, more affordable project because the November referendum of $8.5 million failed by 56 percent.

Most citizens agreed that downsizing is the key to satisfy voters if the board decides to propose another expansion this spring.

"Instead of a three-station gym, maybe a two-station gym," said Dan Yrjo of Menahga. "I want my money spent wisely."

Attendees were divided into groups that discussed classroom space, gym space, basement issues and alternatives to building. Each group wrote down their suggestions, then all groups got a chance to add to each topic.

Yrjo's group talked about how to solve the gym space problems. Currently, more than 700 students use one gym space and the multi-purpose room when it's not busy at lunch or breakfast times.

Superintendent Mary Klamm said sometimes the gym must occupy about 70 students at the same time.

"It's difficult to explain to the community, but really a gym is a classroom," she said.

The gym space group also came up with another way to cut back - making the walking track smaller because people can still get by with walking in the halls.

"I think it would satisfy people a little more if they downsize the gym space and added two more classrooms," Hannah Huhta said.

The group responsible for ideas on alternatives to building proposed capping open enrollment, merging with Sebeka and using off campus buildings for pre-school.

"Make larger classes, 20 students in a class is viewed as a luxury" was also an idea written down as an alternative to building.

Klamm asked attendees to write on note cards whatever remaining thoughts they had to help the board propose another project. She also asked them to write their personal feelings on why the first special election failed.

"Part of what people said was that we did not listen, we did not communicate enough with the community," she said. "What we're looking for are things that we may not have thought of."

She will present the results of all three focus group meetings, that took place in the last month, at the school board meeting Thursday.

The board will then work on coming up with a new plan to solve the school's space issues and accommodate for the projected growing enrollment in the next five years.