Elementary schools’ future could include family housing
A developer studying Iola’s elementary schools said it’s likely his group would be interested in converting two of Iola’s three buildings if voters eventually decide to build a new school.
Rudy Manes, a partner in Prairie Fire Development Group of Kansas City, Mo., told USD 257 board members Monday night he’s done more research on the project and believes both Lincoln and McKinley could be converted into housing, either for the elderly or for families. At a Sept. 24 meeting, he indicated the developers might pick just one building for use as elderly housing. He said studies show Iola has need for both and both schools would make feasible projects.
He also gave board members a rough idea of floor plans for the building, showing how classrooms could become one- or two-bedroom units. McKinley, for example, could have about 11 one-bedroom units and two two-bedroom units, mostly utilizing existing classrooms for each unit. As a one-floor building, it likely would work best as elderly housing.
Lincoln would have more options, perhaps even offering some three-bedroom units, if the developers decided to convert it to multi-family housing rather than elderly housing. In both cases, the floor plans would leave gymnasiums in place for use as community facilities.
“As this starts churning along, we want to let people know we’ve got very good, viable options for the schools,” Manes said.
The group probably isn’t interested in Jefferson, Manes said, because its structure and proximity to the downtown square makes it more suitable for office space.
Prairie Fire uses historic and other types of tax credits and financing to convert old schools into housing. They’ve completed numerous projects, including former schools in Chanute and Baxter Springs.
Manes also gave board members a better idea of the income guidelines used to qualify for residency. Federal housing restrictions mean residents must have some sort of income to qualify for the units, but also impose a limit. The range is fairly broad, he said.
For example, a one-person household must earn an annual income of about $25,000 to qualify but can earn up to almost $36,000. For two people, the income range is between about $29,000 to $41,000.
Monthly rent likely would be somewhere between $350 into the $400s for smaller units up to $650 to $800 for multi-family units, Manes said.
Manes promised to keep in frequent contact with the board as the group continues to study Iola’s elementary schools. At a future meeting, he plans to show board members just how quickly he expects residents to sign leases for the units.
“It’s going to be phenomenal how quickly these lease up because of the need,” Manes said.
He also plans to attend a community meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at Lincoln to discuss the potential project and address any concerns the public may have about the project.
The steering committee is organizing community meetings to discuss plans with residents and narrow their choices before deciding whether to pursue a bond issue. Board members expect to hear a recommendation from the committee by Nov. 12.
Would you rather brush your teeth with spinach-flavored toothpaste every night or drink liver-flavored milk every morning?
That’s the type of icebreaker question fifth-graders at Iola Middle School will be asking each other Wednesday during “Mix It Up Day,” principal Brad Crusinbery told board members. He gave the board an update on activities at the middle school.
During Mix It Up Day, fifth-graders will spend their lunch break sitting at tables where they don’t usually sit, with classmates they don’t usually sit by. The plan is to encourage interaction between different social groups. Students will pick out icebreaker questions from envelopes, including some of those very unique “Would You Rather” questions.
Crusinbery also talked about science programs, including a new robotics class and a plan to shoot rockets Wednesday at the football practice field.
He also talked about a Pioneer League Choir concert last week, state assessment tests, sports achievements and more. Student-led parent-teacher conferences take place this week.
A new instructor, Lane Crellin, has been hired for the welding program at the Rural Regional Tech Center. Superintendent Stacey Fager talked about activities at the tech center, including welding and construction projects. The building trades class is building chicken coops they hope to sell if there’s enough interest. The class also is likely to build a new classroom inside the tech center building for use for a future wind energy classroom.
The district continues to pursue funding for the wind energy program, Fager said.
In other news, the board:
— Accepted a check for $1,915.98 from G&W Foods, Iola store manager Daniel Giles. That’s the amount of money raised from students and others who turn in their receipts to benefit school programs.
— Heard an annual audit report, which found no problems. The district also recognized Meta Titel of Jarred, Gilmore & Phillips PA of Chanute, who is retiring after 17 years as the district’s auditor.