Survey: Fix auditorium, expand gym
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · June 28, 2013

Survey participants declared, based on a rating system, the high school auditorium is in the poorest condition of the school district facilities, a recent report revealed.

However, an open-ended question suggested short- and long-term goals put at the top of the list converting the recent gym-and-weight-room addition into a full-blown competition gym.

“I like it,” West Branch Board of Education member Kathy Knoop said of the survey results. “It’s similar to what we found.”

In light of recent school shootings, the survey also showed mixed results on safety and security.

Asking survey participants to rate the condition of safety and security throughout the district, the 117 people were nearly evenly split: 47.9 percent felt safety and security were “excellent” or “satisfactory”; while 49.6 percent felt it was “fair” or “poor.”

However, when looking at the goals, only 3.4 percent mentioned it as a short-term goal and 1.7 percent mentioned it as a long-term goal for the district. Assuming the survey participants’ answers to not overlap, the combined total of those suggesting improvements to safety and security ads up to only 5.1 percent.

Out of areas ranked by the survey participants, safety and security was ranked No. 6. The survey weighted votes with “excellent” given a “one” and “poor” given a “four,” so the lower the score, the higher it appeared on the list.

“I was a little surprised with the low rank on safety and security,” Board President Mike Owen said.

Superintendent Kevin Hatfield said one person reviewing the surveys commented that new security measures, from signs to more locked doors, may have contributed to a better perception of safety in the schools.

Of the 117 who took the survey, 38.5 percent were teachers, school administrators or school board members and another 5.1 percent were employed by the school district in other positions. Combined, about 43.6 percent of survey-takers had strong ties to the school district.

Parents made up about 20.5 percent of the total, and high school seniors accounted for another 16.2 percent, for a total of 36.7 percent of survey-takers who identified themselves as customers or clients of the district.

Another 7.7 percent had minimal ties to the district, like a city resident or someone who works in the West Branch area, and another 18.8 percent marked “other.”

Regarding the high school auditorium, it rated a 3.48 on that four-point scale, so with “four” being the poorest, it was the most in need of care.

One comment suggested building “a community auditorium that can seat enough to hold a band concert.” In the goals section, 33 people suggested a new or remodeled auditorium in either short- or long-term goals.

Others in the bottom five:

2. Parking lots rated a 3.25 out of four, though it was not clear if that meant the school district needs more parking, or the current lots need care. However, events at the high school often lead to cars parking in the grass.

3. Dining areas, rating 3.13 out of four. Again, it was unclear if that meant the condition of the dining areas or that the school need more. In the part of the survey regarding short-term goals, four people suggested improving school lunches and lunchrooms and three people suggested a new high school commons. Also of note: The middle school pupils walk to Hoover Elementary to eat lunch because WBMS does not have a lunchroom.

4. Locker rooms, rating 2.96 out of four. The locker rooms at the high school were recently improved, yet one person suggested improving the locker rooms at Hoover Elementary.

5. Band/music room, rating 2.88 out of four. In the goals section, six people suggested improvements to the music rooms.

Of the school facilities in good condition, the top five were:

1. Varsity athletic playing or practice areas, rating 2.28 out of four.

2. Playgrounds, rating 2.32 out of four.

3. Office areas, rating 2.49 out of four.

4. Hallways, rating 2.51 out of four.

5. Technology labs and infrastructure, rating 2.52 out of four. The school finished its first year of lending laptops to every pupil in grades five through 12.

Other highlights of the survey:

• 91.5 percent of survey participants visited the high school in the past year, 69.2 percent visited the middle school and 76.1 percent visited the grade school.

• 66.1 percent noticed improvements school facilities in the past year.

• Looking strictly at short-term goals, survey participants suggested improvements to 1. high school parking, 2. high school heating and air-conditioning, 3. expanding the new gym to a competition gym

• Looking strictly at long-term goals, survey participants suggested improvements to 1. A new or remodeled high school auditorium, 2. Expanding the new gym to a competition gym, 3. Remodeling the classrooms/high school windows and “stopping the (middle school) trek (to the elementary school)”

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