Ashland School Board members voted Monday to ax one of the high school's industrial arts programs.




Amy Patton, the sole "nay" vote on the board, said that with three industrial arts programs at the high school, the welding classes were significant.




Board member Amy Amrhein agreed it's an "incredibly important" program and said she knew how disappointed the students in the welding class would be to have the class cancelled. She also said that with the high school's declining enrollment, the school would no longer be as comprehensive with its course offerings and that it was also important to maintain fiscal responsibility.




"I support the motion with regret," Amrhein said.




Board chairman Heidi Parker also weighed in, noting that she's read articles reporting that, in Oregon, there are growing employment opportunities for welders. With that in mind, while agreeing with Amrhein on the necessity to make the budget cut, she also said she wants to find a way to expand the industrial arts program through alternate funding options or community partnerships.




The school board covered a lot of ground Monday on issues ranging from school construction projects to the replacement of the youth activities levy. The school district is seeking an exemption from a state law that requires them to accept the lowest bid for construction projects because of its concern for the complexities involved with several simultaneous improvement projects. Gordon Odette, vice president of Heery Management, came before the board with various recommendations regarding how to go about construction strategies.




For Walker Elementary School, he advised that they go with a "design, bid, build" process, usually used with smaller renovation, addition or improvement projects. The result is a straightforward process in which the lowest bidder often wins the project.




Odette said that Bellview and Helman elementary schools are better suited for a "request for proposal" process that is structured for new construction and larger renovation and additions, and also a process that results in the lowest project cost as long as enough contractors are bidding.




However, he advised that the board go with what's called a CM/GC (construction manager/general contractor) for the high school, where the work will be more complex. As an example, Odette said that working on multiple buildings, some of which are older and have a unique design, results in confronting unanticipated conditions such as coming across an unknown structural condition that requires a special building solution.




In the conventional "design, bid, build" strategy, there's not much incentive for a contractor to hold the costs down for those types of situations, he said. Under the CM/GC strategy, there can be cost savings because the contractor is involved in the design phase and collaborates to solve unanticipated structural problems. Odette said the CM/GC approach is used when the scope of the work can't be defined beforehand.




"We believe there'll be challenging aspects with the nature of the projects," he said.




Parker asked which process would be least likely to result in cost and time overruns that would result in having to cut things out of the project. Odette answered that sometimes under the pressure of a bid, people agree to do things that they cannot do and that none of the processes offer protection from that &

the only protection is using good professionals.




If the board agrees to go for a CM/GC approach, project managers will write up draft findings that support using that construction strategy and invite public comment.




In other business:




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162; The board is planning to appoint a committee to research the impact on the district of losing its youth activities levy. The levy expires next year and the district is not going to put forth a similar measure to voters because Eugene's youth levy was found to be unconstitutional. Board members will instead seek an alternative local option levy to replace the youth levy, which pays for extracurricular activities at the schools.




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162; The board heard from Samuel Bogdanove, director of student services, who updated the board about a state-mandated K-12 guidance and counseling project designed to help students develop life skills for successful life as an adult. The program means redefining the traditional role of a counselor from academic counseling and crisis response to a more integrated role within the classroom. The program's emphasis is learning to work, live, learn and contribute to the community. Counselors will shift into a role that includes serving as curriculum specialists to aid teachers integrate the four program goals into their class studies. The mandate also calls for a program that helps students with career development goals, beginning in seventh grade.




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162; Ashland High School Principal Jeff Schlecht reported to the board that all absenteeism has dropped in the last several years. He attributed that drop to an intervention strategy that sends students to an after-school eighth period where they can catch up on homework and make up tests if they have missed classes. He said the strategy helps students from getting discouraged and falling further behind in their studies. "If the students don't show up, we hunt them down," he said.