Aurora Board of Education updates, graduation plans for May

Seth Kinker
Aurora Advertiser

The Aurora Board of Education met for their monthly meeting on Apr. 5.

First, a member of the community and a parent, Paul Ward, spoke to the board regarding the loss of opportunities for students in band due to the pandemic.

Last year during the spring, contests were canceled due to the pandemic and in the fall, the majority of the band field competitions were canceled as well.

One such opportunity this year, the spring concert, had initially been canceled as well with quarantines and positive cases at that time causing enough concern for Superintendent Billy Redus to cancel it.

“That was a decision I had made,” said Redus.

“After hearing Mr. Ward, because of the fact our COVID cases have been on the decline, (the board) asked our principal to do some work to reschedule that spring concert,” said Redus. “We did have athletic contests going on and those didn’t seem to have an impact on the overall numbers so that was the reason they made the decision to make sure those other clubs had some opportunities."

The board also discussed the proposed bond issue projects that were to be voted on, on Apr. 6.

Proposition S.O.S, issuing general obligation bounds in the amount of $7,700,00 resulting in no increase to the debt service tax levy, for the purpose of construction, improving, repairing, renovating, furnishing and equipping school facilities including: Secure entryways and safety improvements at Robinson School and Aurora Junior High School; Construction of severe weather storm hardened shelters; and Renovations and utility efficiency upgrades to all district facilities passed with 76.51% voting yes and 24.39% voting no on Apr. 6.

The district’s debt service tax levy is estimated to remain unchanged at $1.05 per $100 of assessed valuation of real and personal property.

After discussions, the board approved projects totaling $6,891,080 with the action pending, only applicable if the voters approved the issue and with the bond issue passing on Apr. 6, the district administration and its attorneys will finalize the remainder of the contract before requesting final approval from the board.

“There were some projects that weren’t able to be developed before the bond issue,” Redus told the Aurora Advertiser. “The board did not want to approve up to an amount on things that hadn’t been developed yet. We’re working with a company to have that process in place so if the bond does pass, were able to start as soon as possible because some of those renovations are going to take place in the buildings. And we want to try and have them done before school next fall.”

Redus added that it wouldn’t be for anything that hasn’t been listed.

Now that the bond has passed, more items will be added to those projects.

“Roofs are going to be a big thing,” said Redus. “We have some roofs that really need to be, we’ve repaired or replaced roofs the last few years, but we have a couple that are at the point where we really need to do something. We’ll also look at a few HVCA things too, some of our units are 20 years old and their lifespans are about to end."

Redus said the district has looked at their options from full tear off to products that can seal coat the roofs.

Under new business, the board approved summer projects including sealing and the striping of parking lots, repairing concrete areas at various building and mulching all the playgrounds.

Redus said the district normally spends between $40,000 and $50,000 a year on sealing and striping but because of extra projects this year, that might double, the concrete work will be an estimated $15,000 to $20,000, and mulching the playgrounds hovered around $10,000 with all those funds coming out of the district’s capital projects fund.

Graduation plans

Graduation is normally held at Kelly Field, the football stadium, weather permitting with an alternate location inside the high school gymnasium if it’s deemed necessary the day before.

The high school band performs with two student speeches and the presentation of association degrees from Crowder College, followed by the graduation ceremony.

Last year, the Aurora R-8 School District had to postpone their typical May graduation, seeing what other schools in the surrounding area were doing as far as ceremonies and precautions.

They eventually decided to hold the graduation ceremony outside in June adjusting their setup for more spacing for students, parents, other family members and other attendees.

“Last year we saw some of our neighboring areas who were having drive-bys or virtual graduation ceremonies where they might drive up with friends and family and get their diploma,” said Aurora High School Principal Rob Brown. “We really wanted to avoid that at all costs. We felt we owed it to our seniors, those seniors missed out on during the spring and other various activities that other classes never had to experience."

“It turned out that we loved the set up so much better than previous years that were going to do it again this year,” said Brown.

Brown said they hadn’t received any guidance from the state level or about any specific restrictions but would follow the guidance from the Lawrence and Barry county health departments.

This year’s graduation class will consist of 95 students and is planned to be held on May 14.