Like a bikini-clad girl inching into freezing water, the Payson Unified School District (PUSD) Board voted to seek an architect to add several kindergarten classrooms to Payson Elementary School, protesting all the way.
It did not help that Director of Facilities Todd Poore begged off creating a master facilities plan for the district, citing Payson’s uncertain prospects.
“We talked about a master plan with a multi-purpose room in our future,” said Poore, “But coming up with a master plan without knowing what this community is going to do, might be chasing our tail.”
Poore’s statement sparked objections from the board before they fell into line and voted for a request for proposals from architects.
“I can show you lots of businesses in town that failed for lack of a master plan,” said board member Rory Huff, “(PUSD has) a history of a lack of a master plan and then you have to deal with solar panels in the way and drainage problems.”
“One thing I heard from the PES (Payson Elementary School) staff saying they felt FES (Frontier Elementary School) was a little more closeknit because they had assemblies every Friday that brought out the community and everyone could be together to celebrate our successes,” said Barbara Underwood, board president.
The board recently approved the sale of Frontier to a Christian school, having closed the school two years ago to save about $400,000 in facilities and maintenance costs. The board discussion in a recent meeting revealed that the district had no detailed projections of future growth and facilities needs, despite the decision to close a school site in the face of a slow but persistent enrollment decline. Payson’s general plan envisions growing from the current population of about 15,000 to a build-out population of about 40,000.
This time around, the board seemed leery about acting without such a long-term plan.
“I’d like to see a plan for an auditorium and classrooms,” said Shirley Dye, board member. “I’d like to see a master plan.”
The heart of the issue is whether to build a multi-purpose room for assemblies and performances along with two additional classrooms needed to provide all-day kindergarten.
Only in his second week on the job, PES Principal Asa Watt-Hall said the school has 150 incoming kindergartners this year.
“Right now, we barely have room for all-day kindergarten,” he said. Poore had already consulted with an architect and collaborated with a volunteer committee made up of himself, a teacher, a parent, and Director of Technology Joni deSzendeffy. So this week he came to the board meeting to move the project forward, with board approval of the RFP.
“If you ask me, I’d say, ‘Kick it off baby,’” said Ron Hitchcock, superintendent. “Every process is going to require board approval. The answers to all your questions really should be answered by an architect.”
“How is the architect going to know what to do if you don’t tell him?” asked Huff.
Business Manager Kathie Manning answered that it all depends on how the RFP is written. “We can specify we want a couple of options,” she said.
After Devin Wala and Jim Quinlan, both via telephone, agreed to move the process forward as long as the architect looked at building a multi-purpose room with the classrooms, the board voted to send out the RFP.
“We will choose who we feel more comfortable with after evaluating applications,” said Manning.