Keystone board considering move to vacant Jeff West building
by Dennis Sharkey
Discussions are now under way between Jefferson West USD 340 and Keystone Learning Services that may solve an empty question for the district.
Last year USD 340 board members decided to close the Intermediate School in Ozawkie to save the cash strapped district money. However, an empty building is not what district board members want.
Keystone’s board, made up of representatives from the county’s six school districts plus ACCHS USD 377, met at the Ozawkie school last week to tour the facility and to consider the idea of consolidating all of Keystone’s administrative offices and the John Dewey Learning Academy into one building.
“I certainly think that’s possible here,” Keystone Executive Director Dr. Tim Marshall told board members.
Two Jeff West board members, Don Knowles and Linda Jones-Giltner, attended the meeting in addition to Keystone representative Shannon McMahon.
Jones-Giltner told the Keystone board that USD 340 board members have had many discussions regarding the building that include Keystone but also with the University of Kansas, Kansas State University and Washburn about occupying the building. In addition community colleges and junior colleges were also contacted. She said some were interested but not at this time. She said talks will not become serious until the district knows they have a dance partner.
“I think number one, we were interested in knowing if you were interested in the building,” Jones-Giltner said. “We can’t assume you are. We would like to hear you are and then talk more seriously.”
Knowles told board members that an organization like Keystone would be the type of fit his community is looking for.
“The community would like to see this building used for an educational purpose first,” Knowles said. “They would also like to see something arranged so this building isn’t empty anymore than a year at most.”
Jones-Giltner said if Keystone is not interested her board might consider business interest.
“We really weren’t in favor of that, but that would have been our next step to get our building occupied,” she said.
One thing all three from the USD 340 stressed was that the district does not want to sell the building at this point.
“We don’t want to sell at this point because we don’t know the future of our district or the districts around,” McMahon said.
Another reason for the move would be to centralize the operation. Currently the Keystone administrative office is in Oskaloosa while the JDLA is in Lecompton.
“You have different classrooms in each community so those are things to think about,” Jones-Giltner said.
No one at the meeting came up with ideas against a move for Keystone, however, many questions were raised with presumably more to come. Marshall stressed that studies will have to be done to determine if a move will be cost effective for Keystone.
“If we increase costs, that would come back to the districts,” Marshall said. “I don’t think that’s anyone’s first choice at this point.”
Marshall said that Keystone would probably want to retain the ownership of the building in Oskaloosa in case USD 340 wanted the building back. Marshall also said that renting the Oskaloosa building could also provide some push-back to any extra costs that might be incurred from a move.
If Keystone vacates the Old High School in Lecompton they would lose any right to the building and the city of Lecompton could rent that building to someone else.
The move could cost the Perry-Lecompton USD 343 district more money in transportation costs but would lower costs for most of the other participating districts.
A move would be welcomed by JDLA Principal Terri Coughlin. She told board members that children are almost touching each other in some classes because of a lack of space. A move to Ozawkie could allow JDLA to service more students according to Coughlin.
The Keystone board told USD 340 members came to a consensus to move forward.
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