The Sedalia 200 Board of Education met at Smith-Cotton High School on Monday to approve certain parts of the Early Childhood Long Range Plan and discussed the issue of long rifle safety.

Superintendent Steve Triplett said construction of an early childhood facility has been discussed since 2016. Recent conversations between district administration and LJ Hart & Company show the cost of construction at approximately $6,000,000.

According to information in the board packet, moving the early childhood facility will open up approximately 20,000 square feet of usable space at the Sedalia Middle School.

The board approved to move ahead with certain parts of the plan, which include soliciting proposals from qualified construction management firms, along with geotech engineering and surveying services. The board also gave approval to retain Porter, Berendzen & Associates as lead architect and design team. The initial budget of $7,150,000.00 for the project was additionally approved. An anonymous donor has also pledged $1,000,000 towards the project.

It was noted that future conversations still need to take place to see how to best utilize this space, with Triplett expressing the safety of students and staff is top priority. He added, "this is a starting point for long range use" of the facility in an effort to begin the process for construction of an early childhood facility to be open for the 2020-2021 school year.

Later in the meeting, board members had a lengthy discussion about safety and possible use of long rifles in school buildings.

Earlier this year, the district began using armed security personnel in buildings. Sgt. John Klein and several other SROs weighed the pros and cons of the use of long rifles at Monday's meeting.

The topic came about due to the sight radius of a pistol being too short to accurately shoot longer distances. According to the board packet, in an active-shooter scenario in a crowded venue, using a pistol decreases the chances of hitting the assailant and increases the chances of hitting bystanders/victims. Long hallways and outside areas make rifles a more effective option for defense.

Board members expressed concern about the safety of rifles in school buildings. Klein said that a rifle would be locked in a gun safe in the security office. He and other SROs mentioned they are not in favor of security personnel having a rifle "slung over their shoulders at all times." However, it was noted a rifle is more efficient when "time is of the essence." Klein concluded the topic is "complicated and there are no easy answers."

John Warner, with the Missouri School Board Association (MSBA), was present at Monday's meeting and has worked as a school resource officer in the past. He does not see an advantage to having a long rifle if a security threat is on the other side of the building but isn't against the idea of having a rifle either. He did agree with Klein about the complicated nature of the issue.

The topic was only up for discussion and no decision was made. Almost everyone agreed to revisit the issue at a later date and also discuss other options in the interim.

Board member Steve Schilb thanked everyone for a "very respectful, candid discussion" where all sides were heard.

In other action, the board also approved early repayment of the DNR Energy Loan. Dr. Harriet Wolfe indicated the district's remaining payments through 2021 amount to $512,250.21.

With approval given to repay the loan prior to February 1, the district would pay a total of $492,305.70, which Wolfe said results in saving $19,944.51 in interest.

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