Bowlus, USD 257 plan big moves

District and Bowlus finalize sale of house to be renovate by construction trades center. Bowlus director Dan Kays shares updates and requests a retreat with board members to discuss future goals.

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November 24, 2020 - 9:31 AM

Dan Kays, director of the Bowlus Fine Arts Center, updates USD 257 board members on plans for the performing arts facility. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

The Bowlus Fine Arts Center officially sold a house to the school district for the grand sum of $1.

The house will be moved from its location near the Bowlus to a spot near Iola Middle School, where it will be renovated by the construction trades class and sold.

Once the house is moved, which will likely occur in the next couple of months, the property will become a parking lot. The Bowlus has very limited parking and patrons typically must park across the street or on the street.

USD 257 board members approved the deal at Monday’s meeting, which was held at the Bowlus instead of the usual location at the board office. 

The house was purchased several years ago when Susan Raines was director, with the idea of expanded parking.

USD 257 Board of Education members, from left, Dan Willis, Jen Taylor and Doug Dunlap, with Superintendent Stacey Fager, meet at athe Bowlus Fine Arts Center. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

The idea of moving the house and renovating it came up a few months ago, as the board considered changes with the construction trades class at the Rural Regional Technical Center at LaHarpe. The goal was to build a new house on property owned by the district, but it would be difficult to start a house from the ground up as most of the work would need to be done in the winter months.

The remodel project will still teach students useful skills.

The board at a previous meeting approved spending up to $100,000 to move and remodel the house. 

City officials agreed to waive costs and fees associated with moving the house and attaching utilities. 

Superintendent Stacey Fager thanked the board, Bowlus Director Daniel Kays and the district’s maintenance director Aaron Cole for their efforts. 

“When this came up this summer, it seemed like a very worthwhile project for our students. It will be neat seeing a two-story house moved from this location to the middle school,” Fager said.

The remodel is expected to start in January, when students return from winter break. Ideally, it will be mostly completed in one semester.

THE BOWLUS was featured in much of Monday’s discussion. 

Kays updated board members on activities and performances, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also introduced the Bowlus commission volunteers and staff, each who spoke a few moments about their position and why they joined.

Kays also asked the board to consider scheduling a retreat, likely next summer or fall, with the school board members and the Bowlus commission. Such an event would allow the members to meet outside the confines of the Bowlus to bond and brainstorm about the future, and improve communication between the two entities.

“It would allow us to get out of these four walls and think outside the box, in some place that’s neutral that allows our minds to think freely,” Kays said. “We can take a walk, breathe fresh air and talk about what our future looks like. It’s a little hard to plan with COVID, but we still have dreams and it would be great to have a moment to dream with all of you.”

USD 257 members seemed in support of his suggestion. School board president Dan Willis noted the district has served as trustees for the Bowlus since it was built, but there have been many changes in recent years, including moving students out of Bowlus classrooms and the hiring of Kays. It could be beneficial to take time to talk about future goals, he said.

“The retreat is quite interesting,” Willis said. “I think our relationship has come a long way since you came on board.”

BECAUSE of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kays said he plans to announce shows six weeks in advance. In the past, an entire season of performances would be announced at once. The pandemic has made it difficult to plan ahead.

The first performance of the year, “Christmas with the Celts,” is Dec. 12. Tickets have been selling well, Kays said. Because of social distancing, seating is limited. 

Several events are scheduled for December, including Christmas music performances for local schools. Miss Chelsea’s Dance Studio plans to have a Christmas program as well. 

The Iola Symphony Orchestra had its first practice Monday, with Allen Community College’s music director Jeffrey Anderson at the helm after the retirement of longtime conductor Greg Turner of Fort Scott. The orchestra is expected to perform Feb. 6.

Kays also has been talking with agents about opportunities to bring videos to elementary students. The videos could allow students to watch a major performing arts show, and bring students back into the Bowlus utilizing social distancing. Until now, licensing agreements have prohibited such things but the pandemic is forcing companies to rethink that practice.

Kays also is discussing opportunities to work with Sonic Equipment Company, which has developed a new light technology believed to sanitize large areas like movie theaters. 

School board members, from left, Tony Leavitt, Dan Willis and Jen Taylor listen to a report about a recent parent survey.Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

IN OTHER news, the school board:

— Heard an update from McKinley Elementary principal Angie Linn on the school’s Fall Reading Night, which was done virtually. The school, along with Lincoln Elementary, are considering a virtual music program that would allow families to go online and view a performance from each class.

— Heard a report about a parent survey on customer service. For the most part, the district already is working to address areas where parents indicated a need for improvement, such as an improved website, dyslexia programs and better communication between parents and teachers.

— Heard a report about technical education programs. Officials are in the very early stages of looking at additional programs, which could include such things as heavy equipment operation or culinary programs, but the district first needs to determine there would be a need and those programs wouldn’t take students away from other areas.

— Heard an audit report, which indicated no problems with the district’s accounting and financial practices. 

— Heard an update on construction projects. Masonry, steel work and brick work is underway at the science and technology building. Dirt work has been mostly completed at the site of a new elementary school.

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