Gainesville School asks commission’s help in grant application for preschool building
Gainesville School superintendent Jeff Hyatt attended Monday’s meeting of the Ozark County Commission to ask for the commisioners’ help in applying for a government grant that would be used to be build a freestanding preschool building on the Gainesville campus.
Hyatt was accompanied by Gainesville Elementary School principal Jason Morris, Gainesville preschool teacher Brandi Miller, teacher’s aide Karen Schlegel and SCOCOG community development specialist Jessica Paulk. The group attended the meeting to ask the commissioners to let the county be a “pass-through” organization for a Community Development Block Grant that can only be awarded to a city or county government.
Paulk, representing the South Central Ozarks Council of Governments, said SCOCOG would write the grant application and help with the project development and administration of the grant, if awarded. The county’s responsibility would be paperwork and check-writing, she said.
The maximum grant amount available is $350,000. One concern for the county is believed to be that the additional income would put the county budget over a threshold that requires an audit. But, commissioners agreed, FEMA flood-repair funds will probably put the county over that threshold anyway. The commission is expected to approve the proposal at next week’s meeting. “It’s something the county has done before; I don’t anticipate any problems with voting for it,” said presiding commissioner John Turner.
Paulk told the Times Monday afternoon that the grant application deadline is April 2019, and “they like to say they’ll have grants awarded by October,” she said, adding that, if the application is approved, the next step is usually a 120-day environmental review, followed by bids for architecture, engineering and construction. So, best case, the new preschool building is still a couple of years away.
“We’re starting plenty early,” Hyatt told the Times Monday. “This is another piece of our operating increase where we’re trying to offer more services – in this case, more preschool services.”
Currently, Gainesville’s preschool program has about 35 4-year-olds who attend classes two days a week. Because of limited classroom space for the preschool in the current Gainesville Elementary School, the program can’t always accept all the students who want to enroll. Hyatt hopes the new building, which would have two classrooms, restrooms and support space, would help the school “get to the point where we’re not turning anyone away.” He also hopes the program can expand from the current two days a week to four or five days a week, he said.
Building the facility could also open up more funding opportunities, school officials said. The current preschool program does not qualify for Missouri Preschool Program funds because its small classroom does not meet square-footage requirements. It’s expected that the new building would make the school eligible to apply for MPP funds to help purchase curriculum, build a playground and hire an additional teacher.
The proposed addition would be a freestanding structure because adding onto an existing school building is more complicated and more costly due to regulations, the school officials told the commissioners. Because there’s no feasible building site near the elementary school, the new preschool building would probably be located closer to the middle school and high school – and also closer to the FEMA storm shelter the school is hoping to build, also with government grant money it has applied for.
As far as the storm shelter project goes, Hyatt said Monday, “the paperwork is in their hands, and we’re talking hard to people in Jeff City trying to remind them that Gainesville is down here.”