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Best of Luck to the Class of 2018
1 March 2019
I purposely wrote this letter at the beginning of March because there is just something every year about getting to say goodbye to February. I am not sure if it’s because I’m tired of winter by the end of the month (especially this year) or that I’m excited about seeing the various signs of spring: longer daylight, bulbs starting to sprout, trees budding, etc. Hopefully we already experienced our “in like a lion” weather this past weekend with the ferocious winds on Sunday into Monday.
Another sign of spring at the Larcomb farm is building gates, shearing sheep in preparation for the arrival of lambs in the next couple weeks and surveying what needs repaired, replaced and painted between now and the end of September or thereabouts. In many ways, it’s no different than what we all do at home and what the school district does on an ongoing basis. What hopefully is no surprise as I’ve written about this several times in the past is that the Board and Administration has worked with architects from Fanning-Howey since late last fall to hold community engagement meetings. These meetings have been an attempt to get a sense from the East Knox community as to how to address our students’ needs for the next generation.
As a quick review, the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission conducted a needs assessment last spring and came up with three possible scenarios: 1) add on to the Elementary school to make it a pre-K through 12th grade building; 2) add on a wing to the Elementary to make it a pre-K through eighth-grade building and build a new high school; or 3) tear down and re-build the Junior/Senior High building while keeping the 1994 addition with some renovations (some engagement meeting participants opine it should be a Grades 6-12 building). A fourth option would be to basically gut the current Junior/Senior High and renovate it completely while keeping the exterior shell intact. There are certainly pros and cons to each option. One thing that is abundantly clear, however, is that doing nothing at the Junior/Senior High School is not an option.
Why is doing nothing not an option? The Junior/Senior High School reflects typical construction as seen in districts throughout Ohio with multiple additions added over time that often times don’t make a lot of sense as to why they were done the way they were. As time passes, buildings need upkeep just as our homes do. East Knox is at a point in time where multiple roof sections need replaced on the Junior/Senior High School. There is little time to delay these roof repairs which would cost approximately $1-2 million.
In fact, the gym is the only roof that doesn’t need serious attention. At the time of my employment in 2012, the gym roof leaked so badly that we had to put trash cans in the stands to collect water during basketball games and other events. Upon some investigation, there was a 20-year warranty on that 1994 addition roof. The company that originally performed the installation went out of business. We went back to the company who supplied the materials. For reasons that I’m still not sure of other than some divine intervention, we convinced that company to stand behind their product. The company installed a brand new roof at absolutely no cost to East Knox in 2013 with literally months to spare on our warranty.
There are a number of other areas of concern in the Junior/Senior High School as well involving electric and plumbing. All told, cost estimates to rehabilitate the existing structure would be well over $13 million at which time we would still have an old building. One question we often ask ourselves when considering spending the public’s money: Is it a want or a need?” Can we get by in the building’s current state and if so, for how long? Theoretically, the Board could spend approximately $5 million on plumbing, electric, heating and roof repairs now to keep the building operational. Those type of repairs may keep the building going for another 10-15 years. However, it may only cover the next 5 years before the building becomes basically uninhabitable if there are other issues that come between now and then. So the question becomes does the Board sink millions of dollars into an already old building to get by until some future date not too far down the road or place a bond issue on the ballot for new construction and if so, when?
Our community engagement meetings have been somewhat productive, but the truth of the matter is we need to hear from more of you. The Board and Administration need your thoughts on what direction you, the voting community, will support as we get to a critical decision point as to which option makes the most sense.
Our School Facilities Community Forum meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 14th at 6:30 p.m. in the Junior/Senior High Veterans' Auditorium. I cannot stress enough that your opinion matters very much. It is our hope that you’ll join us in ensuring we’re meeting the needs of our children and this community in the most financially responsible way for this generation and of those to come.
Steve Larcomb, Supt.
8 February 2019
12 December 2018
The Facilities Planning Committee meets next on Tuesday evening, January 8th. You are cordially invited to tour the Junior/Senior High building at 6:00 p.m. starting from the cafeteria. We'll then meet at 6:30 p.m. in the cafeteria for about 90 minutes to discuss our District's facilities as we look toward the possibility of a bond issue next November. Please join us to let us know your thoughts on what this campus should look like for decades to come!
Steve Larcomb, Supt.
19 November 2018
As I write this, Thanksgiving is only a few days away as it falls early this year. I find myself a little behind schedule on a personal level, but fortunately not much. I’m trying to squeeze in my usual fall preparations before the coming winter months. Leaf raking, small repairs that I prefer not to do in 20-degree weather, one last mowing of the yard, planting a few daffodils and tulips, etc. We have a family farm with a few head of sheep that I purchased a year ago. I am looking forward to lambs next March. It’ll be the first newborns we’ve had since 2003 when we moved out of state for a couple years for my first superintendent position. Two of my sons were understandably somewhat less than enthused as we put hay and straw in the barn on 95-degree days this summer. However, they did it without complaint and it was greatly appreciated!
As you can see from above and as is typical for all of us, there’s lots to be done to wrap things up this time of year as well as prepare for the future both in the immediate and down the road. It’s certainly no different at school. Students are practicing for coming music and band programs in addition to their normal studies. Basketball, wrestling and bowling teams are working hard as their respective seasons start within the next two weeks. Mixed in with all of that is the unknown weather for the next several months. We transitioned to a new phone messaging system late last spring as one company was acquired by another. Last Wednesday’s surprise snow and ice was fortunately a no harm done lesson that the system wasn’t quite set up quite the way I wanted it. Thankfully that was quickly resolved within a few short minutes.
In the area of long-range planning, the Board hired Fanning-Howey Associates late summer to provide pre-bond architectural services. That means they’re working with us as we consider the future of our students’ educational environment specifically the Junior/Senior High School. The Ohio School Facilities Commission conducted a needs assessment last spring and came up with three possible scenarios: 1) add on to the Elementary school to make it a pre-K through 12th grade building; 2) add on a wing to the Elementary to make it a pre-K through eighth-grade building and build a new high school; or 3) tear down and re-build the Junior/Senior High building while keeping the 1994 addition with some renovations. We are in the initial planning process that will engage parents, students and community members of all ages in conversations as to what the future of East Knox Schools should look like for the next several decades at a minimum. I say it all the time, but it really should be a very interesting time not only in the next month, but the next 12 months.
As I close, it is my sincerest hope that you and your family have a joyous holiday season and an especially Merry Christmas. I pray that you and your families travel safely wherever that may be even if it’s no further than the grocery store. It’s a crazy, but wonderful time in our home between six children, four granddaughters and our first grandson who will most likely be born before Santa arrives. I hope it’s as exciting in your home!
Steve Larcomb, Supt.
23 July 2018
Dear Parents, Students and Community Members,
Welcome to another exciting school year! I often refer to this summer as the Pax Romana. It was a time of relative peace in the Roman Empire that lasted a couple hundred years. While outwardly it appears the campus is quiet and calm, however, our year-round staff members have been busier than honeybees with projects and improvements to the campus. There is especially nice maintenance-type work getting accomplished in the Junior/Senior High School. We are wrapping up projects including heating units in the Vo-Ag and Science/Band/Music/Art areas. We made repairs to gym bleachers which now include areas for wheelchair access. Basketball backboards are motorized and can now be raised and lowered as well. That might not seem like a big deal unless you’ve actually played volleyball and had to play it off the board! We replaced ceiling tiles in several areas and improved lighting as well. Restrooms also have a fresh look with new floor finishes that should be very durable. We’ve included some before and after pictures in this newsletter which may or may not do justice to how nice everything really looks.
A couple other items worth mentioning is new fencing at the football field and a refurbishment of the old bus garage primarily for storage of sports equipment, seasonal mowers, etc., janitorial supplies and anything else that normally gets stored with ready access. All these things are happening in addition to the normal deep cleaning, floor stripping and waxing that occurs each summer. I highly encourage you to come to our Open House (dates and times within this newsletter) or just give me a call. I welcome any opportunity to give you a tour of our campus and show the pride our folks take in their work.
Speaking of repairs, I think I would be remiss if I fail to mention yet again another positive outcome of the community’s generosity in passing the operating levy coming up on two years ago already. As I have previously written, our district typically lost about 14-16 teachers out of about 63 each summer between 2013-2016. We had 8 resignations last summer after the levy passed in November, 2016. We experienced only 4 teaching resignations this summer. This stability, or part of the EK Pax Romana as I call it, can only be good for our students and the community as a whole!
It is evident when touring our beloved Junior/Senior High School that there is need to consider the future of our students’ educational environment. The Ohio School Facilities Commission (OFCC) assessed our campus this Spring and offered recommendations for the future of our educational spaces as the Junior/Senior High ages with the passage of time. The assessment serves as a discussion starting point. The Board and Administration discussed the report at length between May and now. We interviewed architectural firms in June. I anticipate the Board will move to formally engage pre-bond architectural services at their August meeting. This means that we will start what will be at least a year-long process to engage parents, students and community members of all ages in conversations as to what the future of East Knox Schools should look like for the next several decades at a minimum. One of the many things I love about this community is the knowledge that whichever path we follow regarding the future of our District, it will be a positive direction now and in the years to come.
We are looking forward to the return of our students for another educationally fulfilling year. As it is still just mid-July as I write this, there is no immediate sense of the excitement of their return. However, I assure you that will change dramatically over the next several weeks as teachers start returning to their classrooms on August 1st or thereabouts, sports practices start and the back-to-school shopping rituals begin yet again. I’ll let you in on a little secret. I miss the students all summer long and look forward with eager anticipation to the start of the next school year before the doors close on the last one. That’s the news for now. I hope you have a great remainder of your summer!
Superintendent of Schools
29 May 2018
The students and majority of staff members are gone now for the summer. While the campus is educationally a quiet place, I assure you there's a different kind of excitement from those of us who remain on duty. We have a number of summer projects that while some may see as mundane, they are nevertheless integral to ensure our schools are back up and ready to go for the beginning of the coming school year. We are addressing several heating issues such as the VoAg and Jr/Sr High Art/Band/Guidance areas. We are also making improvements to the Jr/Sr High bleachers, automating basketball fixtures for raising and lowering the brackets, replacing football field fencing, replacing technology, repairing the old bus garage, and improving parking lot lighting as well as interior lighting. I assure you there are quite a few other projects as well not to mention the usual mowing, trimming, floor waxing and all the general, deep cleaning that gets done during this alleged "quiet time!"
One other thing I want to mention again is the ongoing positive effects of passing the operating levy in November, 2016. As I've previously written, our teaching staff turnover was typically around 25% each summer until the levy passed. We cut that rate by about half last summer and appear so far to cut it in half again this summer! Stability is good for our students and good for the East Knox community!
As always, thanks for your continued support of our students and staff. I hope each of you has a really great summer!
Steve Larcomb, Supt.