From warm embrace to arm’s length, proposed walking trail becomes more of a concern for R-1 board members

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 10/20/21

HERMANN — Good fences might make good neighbors. But a shared walking trail? Maybe not so much.

As the last school year came to an end, the directors of the Gasconade County R-1 District …

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From warm embrace to arm’s length, proposed walking trail becomes more of a concern for R-1 board members

Posted

HERMANN — Good fences might make good neighbors. But a shared walking trail? Maybe not so much.

As the last school year came to an end, the directors of the Gasconade County R-1 District welcomed with open arms a proposed walking trail stretching from the Clara Messmer-Eitmann Senior Center to the high school campus. But last month, after R-1 board members got their first look at a drawing of the proposed trail, concerns arose. At Thursday night’s district Board of Directors session, those concerns remained. Especially the concern about liability for those using the trail.

R-1 Superintendent Geoff Neill told the board that the district’s legal counsel is in negotiations with Messmer-Eitmann Foundation officials regarding the particulars of the proposed project. R-1 directors noted that when the project first was proposed by the Foundation prior to the departure of then-superintendent Scott Smith at the end of the last school year, the district would assume no responsibility for the development, maintenance or liability regarding the trail.

The trail is planned for the rough terrain that connects the high school campus with the Senior Center to the east, land that is not likely to developed because of the topography. Bob Kirchhoffer, representing the Messmer-Eitmann Foundation, explained that the development of a walking trail is in keeping with the late Clara Messmer-Eitmann's strong belief in physical fitness.

Allowing the use of R-1 property for a trail was questioned by Director Tim Schulte, who suggested the district consider selling the land to the Foundation. Other directors rejected the notion of selling the property, preferring to keep the campus property intact. After hearing the Foundation’s proposal, the R-1 panel enthusiastically supported the project — contingent on  the absence of responsibility for the trail’s upkeep.

But when a drawing of the planned trail was unveiled at the September meeting, directors became concerned about how close part of the trail would be to some of the high school buildings, which prompted security concerns. There also was a concern voiced about a lack of monitoring of who would be using the trail and when they would be on the pathway.

The issue of liability apparently arose only in recent weeks. Neill told the R-1 board he would have no further updates on the project until the matter of liability is resolved.

On another front involving security, the superintendent noted that bids will be sought for the proposed secure entrances on the elementary, middle and high school. This project has been in the facilities update mix for some time with the district working with local architect Nick Godat on designing more-secure entrances.

Also on the building-security front, the Gasconade County Teachers Association, which includes R-1 faculty members,  is recommending asking the Hermann Police Department, Gasconade County Sheriff's Department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol to have personnel who patrol in this area to visit the campus to become familiar with the layout of the buildings in the event they need to respond to an emergency on campus and to help faculty and staff become better prepared to respond to possible events. The recommendation was roundly endorsed by the administration and the board.

While there was no detailed update on COVID-19 needed at this session, it was noted that school administrators have been dealing with another headache: The old-fashioned flu. Elementary School Principal Kendra Brune reported that during the past month 38 students had missed more than three days of classes, an unusually high number. “We did have a round of flu,” she said.

Public health officials, who saw relatively few influenza cases during the past year, are bracing for a return of the flu as the coronavirus pandemic appears to be waning.

School administrators are offering parents the same recommendation regarding the flu as they are for the coronavirus: If in doubt, keep the student at home.

In other matters, Director Kevin Stiers reported that the district’s Alumni Association recently meet and noted that it has raised $768,000 for scholarships. The goal of the group is to reach $1 million, which appears likely to be reached earlier than first thought, he said.

Those thinking about running for the R-1 board will have less time than previously to mull their candidacy.

A new state law has shortened the time that candidates can file for school boards. Filing begins Tuesday, Dec. 7, and ends on Tuesday, Dec. 28. Candidates will file at the district’s Administration Building. Even though filing will end during a time when school is out of session for Christmas break, there will be staff available at the Administration Building daily, except Dec. 24 and 25, to assist filers.

Two seats will be filled in the April 2022 elections. Those are held now by Dot Schoening and Tim Schulte. The terms are for three years.

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