During Tuesday night’s regular meeting, Duncan School Board members heard a plea by Gail Loafman to save the old Duncan Middle School Auditorium from demolition.

Loafman, president of the Prairie House Foundation and a self-described “historical preservationist for the Duncan community,” characterized the building as one of Duncan’s few remaining WPA (Works Projects Administration/New Deal) projects.

“Please bear in mind, we’ve already lost the old courthouse and two railroad stations,” she cautioned. “As long as it’s still standing, you still have options, but once it’s gone, we have no options.

“I urge you to use all care in making your decision.”

No final decision was made Tuesday night, although the board did hear a report from Superintendent of Schools Sherry Labyer about the building’s condition.

Labyer reported that the state’s fire marshal had condemned the building for human occupancy.

Not only does the roof leak, she said, but there is also structural damage that results in several inches of standing water inside the auditorium each time it rains.

“The water is doing even more damage, and mold and mildew are growing everywhere,” she noted.

Additionally, school maintenance employees spend a couple of days getting the water out of the building each time it rains, she said.

“There are lots of factors,” she continued. “There are problems with the electrical, plumbing, structure and roof. There would have to be a huge amount of money spent to make it fit to use again.”

Loafman offered to provide information on available grants to begin the auditorium’s rehabilitation

Labyer said that she had already received two estimates on the cost of demolition; one for $38,000 and the other for $40,000.

“We’re not yet to that point,” said Labyer. “And I appreciate Gail speaking up. It’s a difficult decision.

“But if we choose to proceed with the demolition, it should be noted that we have refurbished the west building to save its architectural integrity, with the old lights and copper awning. So the whole complex will not be disappearing.”

Board member Craig Barnes suggested getting an estimate on what it would cost to save the building, but implied that he didn’t hold out much hope. He noted that despite spending $1.5 million on refurbishing the west building, “It wasn’t even enough to do the job that really needs to be done.

“If we can save the building and meet the kids’ needs, that’s fine, but I would like to look at all the ideas and the costs,” he said.

“We need to be prudent for the taxpayers,” chimed in board member Lisa Presgrove.

“We’re not here to destroy historical buildings,” added member Chris Deal. “But justifying those extra costs is difficult. I can envision something rising in its place that would serve us all well in the future. That land might be needed to build a new school.”

Labyer ended the discussion by saying she would have a preliminary study done for the board to review.

In other business, the board:

Approved the 2006-07 budget (estimate of needs) of $22.1 million; an amount that represents 90 percent of the anticipated revenue for the school year;

Approved payment of $109,812.60 to the Stephens County Treasurer’s Office for its 2006-07 Visual Inspection Budget (for property appraisals; an amount that is 39 percent of the county total collected for appraisals);

Received an update from DMS Principal Mike Toone about the Double Day program, which is mandatory for some students with low test scores;

Approved an agreement with Duracom Solutions for a redundant system;

Approved the appointment of Jamie Cook, Bonnie Holden, Mike Barrick, Eva Spaulding, Cindy Parks, Sue Loughridge, Linda Thompson, Marlon Gay, Dennis Loafman, John Millirons, Bud Conway, Glenda Cobb, Rhonda Ruiz, Edie Stewart, Charla Grimes and Dr. JoAnn Pierce to the DPS Gifted/Talented Committee for 2006-07, and received copies of a report on the new program;

Declared the former graduation stage as surplus, because parts of the new stage have started to arrive;

Hired Jamie Rowell as a teacher’s aide for ISD at the high school; Sheri Lederer as a library media assistant at Will Rogers; and Shirley Elder as custodian for two hours at Lee Elementary; and approved a leave of absence for Judy Hale;

Approved a professional development budget for 2006-07, and received a brief report from Financial Director Liz Fawbush that payroll costs were 72.5 percent of the budget;

Met in executive session to discuss negotiations with support personnel groups, but took no action;

Approved a (state) fuel contract for 2006-07 for $97,630;

Was informed that district enrollment had increased by 36 students.

The next meeting of the Duncan School Board will be 7 p.m. Oct. 10.

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