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Columbia Missourian

School board debates contracting custodial services at Battle High School

By Ashley Crawford
October 8, 2012 | 11:35 p.m. CDT

CORRECTION: *Several Columbia School Board members said at a meeting Monday they had reservations about changing school boundaries to address over-enrollment at Mill Creek Elementary School. If boundaries were changed, they would also need to be redrawn when a new elementary school opens on the south side of the city in 2016. Also, a different elementary school will go next to Battle High School. An earlier version of this article did not specify that over-enrollment impacts the Mill Creek area and confused the two elementary schools. **Also, the vote about the tobacco tax resolution was 5-t0-1; the vote was incorrect in an earlier version.

COLUMBIA —Discussion of custodial services at Battle High School dominated Monday night's Columbia School Board meeting.

The district is at a custodial service crossroads, Deputy Superintendent Nick Boren said. 

With Battle High School expected to open in 2013, the board is considering contracting these services, which is projected to save the district $254,104 annually, according to the district's proposed budget planning. The projected savings have made the board question how it handles those services.

"Is there a possibility we're just being inefficient?" said Board Member Jonathan Sessions.

Sessions and James Whitt, another board member, discussed how the district could run custodial services more efficiently and hire Columbia Public Schools custodians at Battle. They also mentioned concerns about wage and benefit discrepancies between the school district's employees and contracted employees.

The firm that the district has expressed interest in contracting with is GCA Services Group based in Knoxville, Tenn., Boren said.

Not only are wages projected to be lower for employees working under GCA, but the benefits are worse, Columbia Public School's Chief Financial Officer Linda Quinley said.

Christine King, School Board vice-president, wanted to know the cause of the wage and benefit discrepancy.

Superintendent Chris Belcher said although the discrepancies are unfair, part of the savings will come from the company's ability to negotiate a better price on chemicals and supplies than the district can. 

If the board does decide to contract GCA or any other third party firm, it will be on a trial basis.

"It makes sense to try it at Battle initially rather than doing it districtwide at first," board member Helen Wade said.

 The board will continue to discuss the options and make a decision at a later date. 

 Other issues:

Columbia Missourian reporter Sky Chadde contributed to this report.