St. James News

Throop raises money to send two on Honor Flight

    Landon Throop, age nine, has raised money to send two local veterans on an Honor Flight later this year. Throop has been saving since he was in pre-school and has a heart for veterans, leading him to donate to a good cause.

Ament receives Eagle Scout badge

    St. James High School student Noah Ament received his Eagle Scout badge during a ceremony held in the Knights of Columbus Hall in Cuba on March 23. Ament has been a member of the Cuba Cub Scout Troop 463 for the past nine years, earning many awards during that time and was celebrated for his Eagle Scout accomplishment.

High school to perform Little Mermaid Jr. this week

    Students of the St. James High School students will be performing Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Jr. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Admission is free for all performances.
    “Students in the stage craft class have been working all semester on Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Jr. a shortened retelling of the classic story of a mermaid who falls for a human,” drama teacher AJ Prawitz said.

School board hears update on construction progress

    A construction update was presented to the St. James Board of Education on Thursday, March 21, as administrators work with architect Dake Wells Architecture and project manager Branco to come up with construction plans that meet the district’s budget. Building and Grounds Supervisor Wes DeLuca informed the board a meeting had been held between school officials and the companies involved to go over construction documents, but there was still work to be done before moving forward.
    “We met with Dake Wells Architecture and Branco. We don’t really have a whole lot of new information. They brought some information, but we are still out of budget. I guess I could say we are closer than we were a month ago,” DeLuca explained. Work to construct a new early childhood center and to renovate the high school has been delayed after the district received cost estimates for both projects, and the district has been trying to reduce the cost of the project, but there is still no definitive timeline on when construction could start. “They took (design recommendations) back with them and they are going to try to get our budgets down,” DeLuca said.
“They were hanging onto a number that, at a board work session, we gave them, and they have been using that number as the new budget. But, our budget is $12 million that was approved by the people. Anything over that needs to be projects that we’ve added,” Superintendent Dr. Merlyn Johnson told the board.
“We’ve asked them to adjust the design and one area that we had talked about is the early childhood (center). We’re ok with a building that is similar to what the middle school looks like and they came back with a brick building. That is not something we anticipated them coming back with and that threw the numbers off,” he said. He said the board had discussed during a work session to change from a brick exterior to a cheaper version that would reduce the cost of the design, but there was miscommunication somewhere leading to the brick being kept in the design documents. “So, we said no. But, they are getting closer. What they did show us of the high school renovation project is really looking good. I feel confident that you’re going to be happy with that,” Johnson said.
One conflict that was discovered was in trying to relocate a gym that would be added to the building in a currently unused portion of the high school. “We made it very clear at the work session that it was a practice gym. We wanted it to be a regulation-sized gym. That’s what our coaches wanted and that’s what our teachers wanted,” Johnson said. “But, with that, we’re going to lose the ability for the community to have large gathering events to watch the kids play,” he said. The goal was to build a regulation sized gym in an area located behind the current entryway, but size will only allow space for the gym itself and not additional seating for parents and visitors to use.
“We might have to do our events a little differently because we won’t be able to have a large crowd in that gym. We talked about not putting that in that space, but commit to having a free-standing space, but it doesn’t make sense when you start talking more about it, the costs, the logistics of kids having to go outside to get to it, and the locker room situation,” Johnson explained.
These concerns were brought up during the meeting and Johnson told the board he expects an update soon. “They are going to get it to us and they want the board to get together, deliver the information to the board. If the board is good with it, go out for bid and get these projects started,” Johnson said.
“They also feel very strongly that the numbers are conservative. They really have hopes that, when it actually goes out for bid, it would be less,” DeLuca said. He said, based on conversations with Branco and their subcontractors, once put out for bid, the costs are expected to be lower than being built into the plans, but much could change in the price of materials between now and when bidding is done.
Board member Tina Spurgeon voiced her frustration with the delays and spurred the board to be more active in moving the project forward. “Is there an end in sight? You say they are coming back, when are they coming back?” Spurgeon asked. Board President Carl Behr and Johnson both said they believe the board could see the presentation within a month.
“We’ve been disappointed, too,” Johnson said. “I think I’ve conveyed that to the community several times. Anytime anyone has talked to me about it, articles in the newspaper, anytime I have opportunities to speak, (I’ve said) I’m disappointed. The board’s disappointed that we’re not starting,” Johnson said. “From the people I’ve talked to, they’re disappointed, but they’re not upset because they know we are trying to be financially responsible.” Johnson said.