The Greater Shawnee Area Chamber of Commerce met Thursday for the 2014 planning session, and one issue discussed was education and the needs of Shawnee schools.

The Greater Shawnee Area Chamber of Commerce met Thursday for the 2014 planning session, and one issue discussed was education and the needs of Shawnee schools.

Shawnee Public Schools Superintendent Marc Moore gave a presentation on the needs of multiple schools found by Renaissance Architects after a thorough investigation of roofs, classrooms and other aspects at the buildings.

“They went through every site,” he said.

Moore gave an overview of how school bonds have helped the Shawnee school system in past years and complimented citizens for the help they had provided to date.

“One thing Shawnee has done well over the years is they have built really, really well,” he said.

He said though Renaissance Architects gave an evaluation of the needs for each school with an estimated price on fixing those needs, it depends on whether the changes will be made and how they will be made and those prices could fluctuate.

“They gave us a comprehensive evaluation of every site,” he said.

Moore said some issues were apparent at almost every school, including roofing issues.

“When we totaled this up, all our needs, and this is our best guess at this point and time and it may change a little bit as we go forward, but what we totaled is about $75,559,000,” he said.

One of the issues Moore said has become important not only for Shawnee but statewide is safe room availability for the students and teachers.

“We have three cites we consider that we can handle all the kids if a tornado was rolling through Shawnee,” he said.

Shawnee Early Childhood Center has a gymnasium that serves as a safe room, the Shawnee Middle School has six classrooms that can fit all 800 students and there is a basement for shelter at Sequoyah Elementary School.

Moore said building safe rooms for those schools without them is something to consider for planning.

Horace Mann Elementary has a problem with size for dropping off and picking up students, said Moore.

“It makes it difficult for busses and parents,” he said.

While Jefferson Elementary has an advantage for a good location, Moore said it does not have a safe room.

“It’s really well located,” he said, adding the only place for students and teachers to go during a tornado would be a small basement.

One of the biggest issues Moore said Shawnee High School has is the fact the office spaces were built to be in the middle of the building.

“That’s an issue,” he said, adding it could be a security risk.

With school nutrition improving, Moore said some citizens are wondering why the high school isn’t a completely closed campus at lunch. Currently the campus is closed at lunch to freshman but open to the rest of the grades.

“If we could get more kids on campus, that’s good for nutrition for those kids,” he said, but noted that currently there’s not enough room for the campus to be completely closed at lunch. “We’d have them all over the building.”

Moore said Jim Thorpe Academy needs to be almost doubled in size to accommodate the amount of students that could attend.

“You’ve got a lot of kids in this community that have a lot of needs,” he said.

Moore pointed out needs from other schools as well as the athletic facilities and other school-related buildings.

Joe Ford, Education Task Force member, said the task force was put into place to help identify ways to improve the school system and help with financial impact, mentoring and consistent accountability. Ford said he, along with other task force members, toured the schools in the school system to gain better knowledge of the conditions of the schools.

“I see clean schools,” he said. “I see things that are organized. But you see schools that are dated; you see facilities that are not up to date. The capital needs are not there. I’d say the maintenance is doing a fine job.”

Ford said the task force is focused on how to get funds and how to get the entire community behind the high school.

“One of the major needs is the high school,” he said, adding it could be a rallying point for the community.

While Ford said the elementary schools need a lot of work, the high school does, too.

“Almost all of those kids will end up at Shawnee High School,” he said.

Ford said the task force wants to see safe schools, education in excellence and have the schools be in position for growth.

“I believe we could improve under our current situation,” he said but added there’s a ceiling the schools will never rise above if the needs aren’t met.

Ford said the schools need more mentoring to help with improvements and student success.

“We need to have more of you, more of us, more of the community people in the schools,” he said.

Ford said for a lot of students, school is the only stable thing in their lives.

“Mentors have to be a part of this,” he said.

Ford said when he was growing up, teachers were teachers and parents were parents, but now, teachers take on the role as parents frequently.

Ford said by the citizens providing what they need to the superintendent and school board, the schools could improve drastically.

“If we provide them the financial support, we provide them the volunteer support, then it’s up to them to organize those two resources to raise the levels of our schools,” he said.