NEOSHO, Mo. – A building firmly anchored in Neosho’s past should be part of the school district’s future.
The Neosho School District last week announced plans to purchase the Haas Building at 201 N. Washington, one block north of the city’s historic plaza.
With an agreed purchase price of $ 1.15 million, the building is currently being assessed for structural form and other inspections. The sale should be concluded in November.
The plan calls for the building to house a new type of school for the district based on hands-on learning, said Melissa Oates, principal of Central Elementary. The planned school would offer a STEM-based curriculum – science, technology, engineering, and math – with the arts included, which would give the acronym STEAM.
“Project-based learning is something we already have across the district,” Oates said. “What makes this building unique is that we can do it wall to wall.”
The spaces in the new building would be very similar to those offered at the Scott Family Amazeum in Bentonville, Arkansas. The district partnered with the children’s museum for about a year to study the concept.
Elements are already in place with the district’s project-based learning strategies. The idea is to teach the standards and lessons of the state’s traditional curriculum as part of a project, Oates said.
“The beauty of this is the way we teach information in context,” Oates said. “With this type of learning, it is student-centered because they are focused on a problem presented to them. They find out through research what an appropriate solution is.”
Oates mentioned an example of how a class developed a garden for a project. The amount of fencing needed for this, and the exact space they had to work with, taught the concepts of math and geometry. Language skills were emphasized by writing requests for authorization or donations.
Teachers are trained to incorporate program standards into such projects so that students are prepared to take annual performance tests as part of the Missouri Assessment Program.
Oates said more professional development comes through quarterly training sessions. Staff will visit other districts with similar programs to learn more about them and choose best practices for Neosho.
The district has been considering expanding Central for this purpose for some time, said Superintendent Jim Cummins. The discovery of the availability of the Haas building, however, gave the neighborhood some advantages.
Pending the sale, the building can be adapted for the program at a cheaper cost than Central, he said. Such programs are not well suited to traditional classrooms, Cummins said.
“Traditionally, when a district creates such a school, it usually takes a retail building or warehouse and converts it,” Cummin’s said. “This opportunity has presented itself here.”
Built in 1898, the building is part of the historic commercial district of Neosho. Currently, a small portion of the building is used by the Missouri Department of Human Services.
Technically a low-rise building, it is one of the tallest structures in the city center with four floors. It offers over 25,000 square feet in what Cummins called “a kind of blank canvas.”
“These floors are basically wide open,” Cummins said. “We have enough space to basically create anything we want. This makes remodeling much easier for the purpose of STEAM. “
Another benefit is cost – Cummins noted that a new elementary school in Goodman cost around $ 13 million. While still in the planning stages, Cummins said Central’s conservative modernization estimate was $ 5 million.
The authorities hope that the purchase and renovation of the Haas building will be even cheaper. Cummins said the architects have already shifted their focus from the center to the historic building. Plumbing, with the addition of several toilets and a kitchen, is a challenge that has already been identified, he said.
While the building will allow more students to participate in project-based learning courses – from 250 to 300, Cummins said – not all students will have the opportunity to attend the new building.
The plan is to allow some students from each elementary school to move on to the program. The numbers would be based on the size of the population of each school, Oates said. Elementary schools with larger populations would send more students. These students would be chosen through an application process and a lottery.
“At this point, there are still a lot of unanswered questions,” Oates said. “The plan for students and families is that there would be an application process for the specified number of students, and then there would be a lottery selection. It will not be skill-based.”
This process would create a way for each elementary school to manage the expected growth, Cummins said.
Other issues, such as transportation, will be addressed in the coming months. The district hopes to open the building for students in the fall of 2023.
The district is already in the middle of a package of construction projects approved by voters thanks to an increase in levies. The biggest project in this package is a performing arts center at Neosho High School, which is estimated to cost around $ 19 million.
Despite the unanswered questions and the current construction of the neighborhood, Cummins said the opportunity offered by the Haas building was too good to pass up.
“If you are assuming that we may need to expand our five elemental elements or build another one in five to ten years, and you already know that Goodman cost $ 13 million, then why not take advantage of it for less than $ 5 million dollars, “Cummins said. “It’s about using resources wisely and having a vision for our future.”