Written by Don Ratzlaff Tuesday, 20 March 2012 14:02
USD 410 will be developing a contract for leasing facility space to a Newton-based group proposing to start a new church in the Hillsboro community.
The board authorized superintendent Steve Noble at its March 13 meeting to negotiate a contract with Grace Community Church of Newton, which is sponsoring the project that includes several local residents.
A contract, if signed by Grace Community, will be brought back to the school board for final consideration at its April 9 regular meeting.
Adam Utecht, lead pastor for the group—which will be known as the Hillsboro campus of the Newton church—presented a written proposal that requested the use of the auditorium or gymnasium, six classrooms for Sunday school classes and a nursery, and restroom facilities.
The group requested to use the space from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Sunday morning, with a willingness to sign a one-year lease.
The proposal states that the group will bring its own sound system, chairs (if in a gym), free-standing indoor and outdoor signs, cleaning supplies and liability insurance.
As for the fee, the proposal stated, “We are open to negotiation of comparable situations.”
Grace Community Church launched an initiative to focus on church multiplication about a year ago, Utecht said.
“We believe the most effective way to reach people for the gospel of Jesus is to plant new churches that plant more churches,” he stated.
The Newton church has been researching different areas for the past six months and, after visiting with people from those areas, “have had a strong sense that God is calling us to plant a new church in Hillsboro.”
The proposal referenced the Hillsboro-Area Ministerial Alliance as saying “approximately 70 percent of the city is unchurched.”
Utecht’s presentation included a newsletter article published by Grace Community’s affiliation group, Fellowship of Evangelical Churches.
The article quoted Jay Nickless, pastor of multiplication at Grace, as saying: “People keep asking me, ‘Why Hillsboro?’ Why not downtown Wichita, where there are more lost people? People have come to Grace from Hillsboro saying that they’re starved for the gospel. When fruit is ripe, you don’t have to yank it.”
Later in the article, Nickless, who attended the school board meeting, explained the Newton church’s vision for starting campus churches in small towns: “Many of these smaller communities have been neglected. No one else is going to Hillsboro to plant a church. It’s like a field that needs to be replanted for the next generation. And there are hundreds of these places in the Midwest.”
In his proposal to the board, Utecht stated: “While we believe there are several strong churches in Hillsboro, we’d like to come alongside them to add one more church to help reach those unchurched people.”
Leasing space to the new group would benefit the community, Utecht stated, because “more churches are always good for the community.”
As for the district, Utecht called the lease option a “win-win” situation because “the school would be seen as ‘community minded’ as you help us get started. The church will seek to reach out to hurting families that are a part of the school system, helping transform families from the inside out.”
Financially, Utecht said, “added revenue from the church will provide extra funds for the school system to use for school improvements which would otherwise not be possible.”
In addition to Utecht, several Hillsboro-area residents signed the proposal: Bruce Bostic, Mary Bostic, James C. Enns, Anita Unruh, Cal Jost, Sue Baker and David Baker.
In response to the proposal, Noble said USD 410 operates as a “limited open forum” in regard to renting its facilities, which means the school board will consider requests on a per-case basis.
School districts also can declare themselves to be a “closed forum,” which means they will not rent their facilities for other uses, or as an “open forum,” which opens the facility to all community groups.
As a “limited-use” district, Noble said the board cannot discriminate when considering requests from religious groups, “regardless of message.” It can only regulate how often facilties can be used.
Following discussion, the board authorized Noble to develop a six-month contract with Grace Community for the following facilities at the elementary school: the Gordon Mohn Community Center, gymnasium, restrooms and three rooms that are not used by core teachers as classrooms.
Noble said using core-teacher classrooms could compromise the privacy of students and teachers.
“The board recognized the challenges and made a reasonable effort to accommodate (the group),” he said.
After six months, the contract will be reviewed.
Utecht said Grace Community is planning its first service in Hillsboro for Easter, April 8, even though the board won’t act on a contract until April 9.
The church’s website is reporting that the first service will be at the Marion County Fairgrounds.
In other business, the board approved the 2012-13 school calendar. The first day of class will be Aug. 23.
In a change from the current year, the first semester will end before Christmas (Dec. 21) instead of the second week of January. In addition to coordinating with the holidays, Noble said the change, which was endorsed by faculty, will work better for students who are taking college-level courses, as well as meeting the state’s deadline for reporting first-semester grades.
Another change is that next year classes will not be in session April 1, the Monday following Easter.
Noble said most rooms in the middle and high schools will be used that day for the league forensics meet starting at 10 a.m.
“It is likely that the middle school and high school would not be able to have school on this day regardless,” Noble said.
Given families’ travel plans for Easter, it was decided to dismiss elementary school classes as well.
Also of note, the 2012-13 holiday break begins with the end of classes Dec. 21 and continues until the resumption of classes Jan. 3. Spring break will be March 18-22; the final day of classes will be May 21.
The board also accepted the resignation of Doris Maltbie as full-time middle school custodian after 10 years of service. The district will be accepting applications for the position.