UP IN THE AIR Crossroads vacating Gas site

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July 16, 2013 - 12:00 AM

The Crossroads Learning Center has been an under-the-radar success story for USD 257 over the past 11 years, but its aging facilities have left its future uncertain.
The school, which provides a different educational path for students, is situated in the old Gas Elementary School building. Director Tim Seibel, also a teacher, said about 30 students are enrolled with four teachers and a secretary. The building was built in the late 1940s, and has seen better days. He said electrical issues, heating and cooling, and security concerns are among reasons the school is closing its doors Monday.
The next step is up in the air, but plans are to move facilities to the current USD 257 Board of Education office, just north of Iola High School. Superintendent Jack Koehn is bringing plans before the Iola Planning Commission, and then to the Iola City Council to garner a special use permit.
A new BOE office will be on 305 N. Washington, just north of the Townhouse Apartments.
“If we could bring Crossroads into Iola, we would have better oversight,” Koehn said.
He said the building’s roof is in “dire need of repair.” A replacement would cost approximately $85,000. In addition to the electrical issues, the school has no central air conditioning and heating — which creates its own set of issues.
On top of comfort, Koehn said it creates security issues. Doors are often left unlocked, as well as windows left cracked open. Koehn, along with IHS Principal Stacy Fager and Scott Stanley, director of maintenance and transportation, agreed security needs to be beefed up after the Newtown, Conn., school shootings last December.
According to the three administrators, the list of advantages is long. Maintenance, teacher availability and food service could all improve, if moved into Iola.
“This seemed like the most likely solution,” Koehn said.
“We’ve looked at other options for Crossroads,” Stanley said. He also pointed out that Crossroads was the driving force behind the board office’s move, not the need for new BOE facilities. Although, costs will be cut if both moves are made.
According to numbers from Koehn, USD 257 will save approximately $23,402 per year, based on bus transportation, utility savings and maintenance reductions.
“Crossroads is one of our biggest lots,” Stanley said. “It takes a lot of maintenance.”

ONE of the biggest advantages for a move would be putting the students closer to the high school.
“Students are here for a multitude of reasons,” Seibel said. There is a separation between IHS and Crossroads, for better or worse. He said many students are there because they needed separation from other students, while others simply wanted a quicker path through high school. Either way, the distance between Iola and Gas can seem great.
“The overall misconception, if we bring the students here, is that we could have some problems,” Fager said.
The administration, along with Seibel, agreed that Crossroads receives far fewer formal complaints than the high school. Seibel said the students are not necessarily trouble-makers, but learn better in a different environment.
He said many of the students learn to take pride in their school. They have their own mascot and yearbook.
“It takes them a while, but in the end they really do take pride in the school,” Seibel said. “They see themselves as Crossroads students first.”
He said some of the students at the alternative school have the opportunity to move back into IHS, but oftentimes they elect to remain where they are.
“There have been a lot of success stories that have come out of Crossroads,” Seibel said.
Koehn said the school’s future depends on the special use permit, and they believe it will be the best move for the students. The close proximity to IHS will be better for logistics, student life and community. A move to the BOE building, as far as the administration is concerned, would make Crossroads students feel more a part of a normal high school experience, albeit “alternative.”
Fager said the students are “USD 257 students first” and are included in many of the same ceremonies and events as the IHS students — including graduation.

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