Mt. Vernon Register-News

January 22, 2014

MVTHS will likely rebid new school

By TRAVIS MORSE
travis.morse@register-news.com

---- — MT. VERNON — Mt. Vernon Township High School officials say they will now likely rebid most, if not all, of the new school’s construction, after receiving advice from legal counsel.

This announcement was made Tuesday night at a meeting of the MVTHS Board of Education.

It came a day after board members had discussed the possibility of eliminating the theater building and football field from the new school’s construction plans in order to deal with a roughly $2 million budget over-run.

“We had legal check into what options we might have and it’s been recom-

mended, based on the amount of scope change, based on the amount of redesign work that’s going to happen ... that we’ll reach a point that it’s involved enough that we need a complete rebid,” said Superintendent Michael Smith.

Tuesday’s board meeting drew a large crowd of audience members eager to share their views on the new school project. Eighteen members of the public addressed the board.

Many of these individuals were students and faculty associated with the MVTHS theater program, who spoke out against the possibility of removing the theater from the new school plans.

“A high school without a theater is not only tragic, it’s embarrassing,” said Crystal Novak, who teaches art at MVTHS.

Several theater students addressed the board about how working in the theater program has changed their lives for the better.

One such MVTHS student, Nathan Arnold, said he wouldn’t have met any of his closest friends if it hadn’t been for the theater program.

“I love it so much,” Arnold said. “I just hope you can see what we see.”

Parent Shelley McDowell spoke of how the MVTHS theater program was an essential part of her daughter’s education.

“It has made a world of difference to many kids,” McDowell said. “It’s an important part of the legacy here at Mt. Vernon and I also pray that it will continue.”

Other audience members were critical of how the MVTHS Board has gone about planning the new school.

Former MVTHS Board member Greg Backes, who resigned last July, told the board Tuesday the current difficulties with the project should not come as a surprise.

“Attempts were made by some board members to get the administration and others to get the figures in line,” Backes said. “Some of us were fully aware that we would end up right where the project is today. Those concerns fell on deaf ears or on those who were unwilling to change.”

A special MVTHS Board meeting has been set for 4 p.m. Jan. 28 to continue discussions on the new school project.

Smith said much planning is still needed to finalize the scope of the project to prepare for a possible rebidding.

The earliest the new school could be completed at this point would be in late 2015, early 2016.

District officials now hope to start the actual construction July 1. The duration of construction has been estimated at 18 months.