Board of Education Approves Long Range Plan to Accommodate Growth
Growth is a magical word that can mean many different things to a community. For Ozark School District, the term growth is part of the everyday vocabulary and embedded in all operations.
“We must look toward the future in order to serve our students today,” said Ozark Superintendent Chris Bauman. “Planning doesn’t happen overnight and we need to ensure our facilities and services are in place as soon as students need them so we can continue to be a leader in education.”
Over the last five years, Ozark School District has seen a growth of 429 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. To put that number into perspective, the graduating class of 2018 was 411 students.
That means the District must continue looking toward the horizon, ensuring it is prepared for the future.
“By analyzing past and current growth, we can anticipate our next steps,” Assistant Superintendent of Operations Curtis Chesick said.
Now, thanks to a 2017 demographic study followed by a series of community long range planning meetings this past fall and winter, the District has established what those next steps are.
The Ozark Board of Education, at the March 21 monthly meeting, unanimously approved a Long Range Plan that will allow the District to expand its current Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs at the high school while also offering some much-needed space at other buildings, including an expansion of Tiger Paw Early Childhood Center.
“Every child and every employee is positively impacted through this plan,” Bauman said.
Through phase 1 of the plan, at an estimated cost of $25.5 million, the District would purchase an existing commercial facility or facilities to remodel for a CTE center; remodel and add a storm shelter to Ozark Middle School; and remodel District Office and expand Tiger Paw. Grades will then shift with the four elementary buildings becoming kindergarten through fourth grade; 5-6 grades at OMS; 7-8 grades at OJH and ninth-grade students returning to the high school. Chesick said the plan is dependent on available existing commercial facilities.
“We’re using so much existing space,” Chesick said about the plan. “And buying an existing space is such a good use of taxpayer money because new construction is so expensive right now.”
The second phase, which would start based on community growth, would add a $2 million wing to the junior high school and construct a new $30 million elementary school.
Over the next decade, Ozark School District is projected to increase by more than 1,400 students. This long range plan will accommodate that growth.
The decision to move forward with this specific plan didn’t come easy. In fact, four plans were initially shared with the District’s long range planning task force, community groups, as well as District teachers, staff and students. The results of those discussions and surveys greatly favored this chosen plan.
“Our schools belong to the Ozark community and their vision of class size, grade configurations, and services guide our future,” Chesick said.
Now, the District is tasked with creating more specific plans for building projects and a bond issue, which could appear on the ballot for voters as early as April, 2020. Administrators are currently looking for commercial properties to purchase, and will present those to the Board of Education as they become available.
Administrators are also researching other school districts with expanded CTE programs, with plans to visit identified centers in the state in order to refine the framework to know what classes to offer as well as what space and equipment is required.
“In every decision, we ask ourselves ‘is this what is best for our students’ and planning for our future is no exception,” Bauman said. “We want to thank everyone — the task force members, the community, as well as our staff and students — for your help during this long range planning process. Your input is invaluable and we are looking forward to continuing the conversations as this process moves forward.”
For more information on the long range planning process, visit www.ozarktigers.org/longrangeplan.