School officials tighten control over Great Cacapon building
Discussions at Monday night's school board meeting over pre-Kindergarten programs turned to concerns about security and vandalism at the former Great Cacapon Elementary school.
The issues arose at the July 2 meeting as school board members considered renewing a contract with RESA VIII, the agency that runs pre-K and Head Start programs in Morgan County.
School Treasurer Nancy White and Terry Riley, director of pre-Kindergarten programs, drew attention to a clause in
the new contract that says RESA will manage use of
the former Great Cacapon school. RESA may also require community groups to make formal requests if they want to hold meetings or functions there.
"We want to get better control of the use of Great Cacapon Elementary," White told the board members. "The building is used a great deal."
During the day, RESA holds pre-K classes for nearly 20 students at the school four full days each week.
White and Riley said they'd heard the building was used for meetings, functions and even for private birthday parties, often without the knowledge of Head Start or school officials.
Head Start teachers had also complained that their teaching materials and toys had been messed with, and that someone had entered the building at night through an open bathroom window and smoked inside the school.
Problems with excessive trash left behind also caused a rodent problem at the former school last year, White said. The new RESA contract makes that agency responsible for its own pest control.
Who's in charge?
Board member David Ambrose asked who had been approving the use of the building.
White said there have been problems determining who's been granting access to the building after hours.
"What about utilities, maintenance, custodial services? We're paying for that no matter who's using it," said board member Larry Omps.
White said this was the case, and confirmed for Omps that the board also carries liability insurance for any use of the building.
"We lease the building to RESA VIII and want them to be in control of that facility. If this were a school, the principal would have to approve any use and a school employee would have to open the building and be there while it was being used," Riley said.
School officials agreed that the RESA manager for the school, Kathy Ullom, would start using the county's official application for use of school buildings, and keep a schedule of any meetings or functions that were held there.
Community still welcome
In addition to basic information, the application for use of the school requires a certification that an organization using the building carries liability insurance.
Fees for the use of the building will apply if a function there charges admission or an entry offering. Otherwise, non-profit and charitable groups must simply fill out the form and get approval from RESA for their events.
We won't be prohibiting people from using it, we just want to regulate who is using it," White told school board members.
Board president Laura Smith said the building's locks would be changed following the vote to tighten control over non-school use of the building.
Omps suggested the school board consider its future plans for the building – possibly as a community center instead of a school facility.
White said if the board deems the building "surplus property," it can be sold or transferred to another entity.