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Demolishing the Buda towers

Bureau Valley School Board OKs emergency phase plan

MANLIUS — At a special meeting on Tuesday, the Bureau Valley School Board unanimously approved an emergency phase plan that includes demolishing the Buda towers this summer.

The plan comes recommended by the newly-formed Buda Tower Committee, which is made up of parents, teachers, administrators and board members.

The plan is to remove asbestos from the towers at Bureau Valley South in Buda before they are demolished. The area between the two towers will be salvaged and used for a cafeteria, classrooms and a gymnasium. Modular classrooms will be leased for 24-months at a cost of $123,546 to house Grades 3-5 at the Buda site. The sixth-graders will be moved to the high school building in Manlius.

The board is still waiting on an estimate from Ideal Environmental for the removal of asbestos. The board also approved a motion Tuesday to allow the district architect to go out for bids on the demolition of the towers.

No discussion came from board members before they approved the emergency phase plan, but they did hear from Scott Stoller and John Gross, members of the committee, before taking action on the plan.

Gross, who is also the Bureau County engineer, said the emergency phase addresses two main perspectives the committee members focused on throughout their planning session, which was health safety and being fair and equitable.

"Looking at the failure of the east tower and how the west tower is constructed, it's essentially imminent failure," he said. "There's no reason to believe that the west tower is not going to follow the path of the east tower. It's not logical."

Gross said the emergency plan would prevent any disruptions in case there was ever an issue with a tower that would cause students and staff to evacuate, and it reunites the junior high staff, students and resources.

"It's not a permanent fix … Is it ideal? I think it's far from ideal," Gross said.

What comes after the emergency phase?

Once the emergency phase is implemented, the committee has recommended to the board Phase 1 and 2 plans.

Phase 1 will be to build on at the high school to better accommodate classrooms and space for the junior high students. On Wednesday, Bureau Valley Superintendent Eric Lawson said the board has an estimate of around $5 million for the addition and is currently looking into funding options.

The board plans to further discuss these options at it's next regular board meeting on Tuesday, May 23.

Phase 2 will occur later down the road and require a referendum. This phase would eliminate the Buda campus altogether and further expand the junior high/high school to accommodate Grades 3-5 from Buda and the Walnut junior high students. It would also include making an investment in the Wyanet and Walnut facilities.

"We don't think these facilities are going anywhere any time soon," Gross said. "I think they're relatively sound facilities with some modest upgrades. They could serve us well in the future."

Gross said Phase 2 would decrease the amount of schools in the south from three to two; it would allow for district-wide curriculum alignment and depth for all junior high students in the district, meaning all students would have the opportunity to take extra curricular classes offered at the high school such as agriculture, industrial arts and home economics.

"Touring the high school facility — it's pretty incredible the depth of the curriculum. I think giving junior high students the opportunity to experience that is a very positive thing," he said.

The committee has discussed putting a referendum question relating to Phase 2 on the April 2018 ballot.

While discussions of a Phase 3 have also been ongoing, Gross said there are no solid plans yet.

"We didn't feel comfortable making any more recommendations for the future. It's well out on the distant future," he said. "Ultimately it's a board decision, a community decision moving forward."

BV hires new principal

Following an closed session on Tuesday, the board also approved the hiring of Kristie Cady as Bureau Valley North principal.

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