School board considers seismic testing on school property

At Thursday's work session meeting of the St. Marys Area School District's board of directors, Superintendent Anne Kearney discussed with other board members a proposal to allow ELEXCO Land Service Company to perform seismic testing on district property in Bennetts Valley. "On Wednesday, I was approached by Elexco Land Services Company, asking if we could give permission for them to do seismic testing on the property at Bennetts Valley [school]," Kearney said. Kearney said the parcels being considered for the lease are for 11.2 and 3.1 acres, respectively. She asked board members to look over the proposal and be prepared to vote on it at Monday's meeting. "If you could read it over, perhaps on Monday, we could make the decision whether we want them to...[SMASD Board President] Joe [Goetz] would have to sign off to allow them to do the seismic testing. I think they've approached a lot of property owners around the area, for the most part I think everyone is signing," Kearney said.Board member James Herzing asked whether the lease would allow the district to retain its claim to the land's mineral rights or necessitate that it forfeits them. "It says on the second parcel, the 3.1-acre parcel, we have 100 percent of the mineral rights. They [ELEXCO] has done the research to see if we own the mineral rights," Kearney said. Kearney expressed that allowing seismic testing could potentially generate significant funding for the district if the testing is completed and Marcellus Shale deposits are found. "We could build a brand new-educational center, a magnet school or something wonderful, you never know. So maybe this will be good news for the district," she said. Seismic testing is the process of surveying land and subterranean geological characteristics and is often employed by gas and oil companies in search of underground natural gas pockets. Also at Monday's meeting, high school principal Josh Williams brought before the board a proposal received from Iowa Assessments, a company responsible for the development, production and dissemination of standardized tests. The company contacted Williams about the possibility of St. Marys Area High School students being allowed to take part in a program which pays them in exchange for their completing sample assessment tests. Williams said that typically, students are offered $56 for approximately seven hours of testing. Williams also said that he has received proposals from several other testing companies with similar offers.Kearney said that Iowa Assessments is pushing to get field tests done at this time because DRC (Data Recognition Corporation), the company charged with instituting most of the nation's assessment tests, as well as collecting and populating the data, is nearing the end of its contract with the federal government. "There are a lot of companies vying for all the money that is out there and when Josh [Williams] came to me, I thought, 'Well this is probably a very good idea.' Because it doesn't hurt the students to take them and typically these are the types of questions that end up on the state tests," Kearney said.