Work on the site of a new Columbia County elementary school might soon get under way.
The school board Tuesday approved an about $2.3 million bid for Garnto & Gearig Bros. Construction LLC to start clearing and grading work on the 34-acre parcel behind the new Grovetown High School.
The new elementary school would face Baker Place Road, and adjoin the high school property.
Site work for the project would include clearing, grading, some paving, and building entrances and exits for the school, Superintendent Charles Nagle said.
The school system had budgeted $2.8 million for the site work. The overall budget to complete the school is about $11 million, with $4.5 million to $5 million coming from the state and the remainder from 1-cent sales taxes.
Work on clearing the site should start next month.
"By the end of May, we should be able to have the site ready to get started building," Nagle said.
A construction contract for the 51-classroom school likely will be awarded in February. The school is scheduled to open in August 2011.
The project would become the ninth new public school built in Columbia County since 2000.
Also at the meeting, results of a standardized test were shown to the board. The results showed that Columbia County pupils mostly remained consistent with previous scores.
In fact, the county's fifth- and eighth-graders performed better than the national average on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, according to data.
The ITBS is a national assessment administered annually to fifth- and eighth-graders testing their reading, language, math, social studies and science skills.
The lowest gain on the national average for fifth-graders was 15 points in math. The lowest improvement for eighth-graders was nine points in social studies.
However, reading scores by fifth-graders slipped by six points compared to last year -- 72 in 2008 to 66 this year.
But that comparison is unfair, said Assistant Superintendent Deborah Franklin.
To establish a baseline score of 50 points, ITBS officials test a sampling of pupils. They then use that average score as the benchmark for other pupils to measure their knowledge of the subject.
A new sample group was tested this year, Franklin said. The last such sampling was conducted in 2000.
Pupils taking the test in 2008 were measured against the 2000 average. Those taking the ITBS this year were measured against a new set of test-takers.
Next year will be a truer test of how well Columbia County pupils are performing compared to previous classes, Franklin said.
Still, Franklin hopes to use the results, in combination with other assessments, like the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, to discover pupils' academic strengths and weaknesses.
"It helps to look at the results and make the necessary change to instruction where needed," she said. "(But) it's important to remember that ITBS is just one piece of the puzzle."
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