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School Board gives A-OK to new HQ

As members of the School Board took their first look last week at the soon-to-be-completed board meeting room, the priority seemed to be finding the escape routes. "Is that the door for rezonings?" one asked, referring to raucous meetings last year when the board and the public clashed over attendance boundary changes.

When they got to the basement of the new District Services Center, some members asked if a trap door will be under the meeting room so speakers can be dropped if they criticize the board at a meeting.

During a 45-minute tour led Tuesday night by Superintendent Carl Austin, the four board members joked, admired and visualized what the finished product would look like.

The $1.5-million building is expected to be finished next month, said Milton Kelly, director of general services.

The two-story, V-shaped building will have 22,000 square feet for a new meeting room with more than 100 seats, and offices for the board, the superintendent, personnel, educational services and exceptional student services.

As the tour group admired the new meeting room, Austin noted that the large double doors leading to the main lobby will allow any overflow crowd to still see and hear the action inside. An additional 40 seats or so could be placed in the lobby if needed.

In the personnel section, board members were pleased with an area set aside for people filling out job applications _ a task now done in the cramped main lobby at the School Board offices.

In the offices upstairs, board member David Watson said, "Look, refrigerators in every room," referring to criticism during the budget process last year that the new building took money away from classroom needs.

Board Chairwoman Karen Johnson said after the tour that she was pleased with the progress on the project. She said the new center will make it easier for staff to serve students.

"There is a need and every facility we've ever built has been attractive, has been very functional and pleasant for everyone who comes into it," Johnson said. "And we have kept the costs down."

During the tour, Austin also showed off his new office, a second-floor, corner suite with two large windows and immediate access to his executive board room.

The tour started and ended near the front lobby and the board members took an extra look at the room that would serve as their office.

Just large enough for the four board members and administrators to stand in, the board members were commenting on how small it seemed.

Currently, the board members have no offices in the existing building because of the shortage of space.

Individual board members often pop into various offices when someone is out to use the phone or conduct meetings.

The new office will provide a desk, filing space and a computer for use by board members.

Watson, the only man on the board, stood outside the room rolling his eyes and shaking his head.

"Can you imagine how they're going to decorate it?" he quipped.

Then he strode into the cramped room with the other board members and asked, "So, where can I put my moose head?"