Building projects highlight school agenda

by nathan osterThe Big Horn County School District No. 3 received updates on its proposed new middle school and the implementation of its pass-card system during its meeting last week in the GHS library/media center.Supt. Barry Bryant said the architectural firm hired to design the new Greybull Middle School would be in town this week, with three days of meetings planned Wednesday through Friday, and that it intends to gather input from parents, teachers and students during their visit.The SFC has approved the construction of the new school, but to date, the school district has only received a portion of the funds required to plan the facility. Bryant said he plans to approach the School Facilities Commission this month to formally request the rest of the planning money.“It should be an easy deal,” Bryant said, noting that the SFC fully supports the construction of the new school.Shifting to the elementary school, Bryant said he’s still optimistic about the modular classrooms being in place by the end of this fall.  He sold the need for the modular classrooms to the SFC, citing overcrowding and a student population that was pressed up against building capacity.But he admitted Tuesday that he didn’t realize at the time that he’d be the one doing the legwork to line up the modular buildings. “I’m working on that,” he said, adding that he’s been on the phone with school business managers and vendors in recent days.Bryant said the decision whether to purchase or lease the modulars has not yet been made.While purchasing would seem to make more financial sense, Bryant said the SFC — which will ultimately the pay the bill — is pushing the district to lease the modulars.   The school district will be responsible for the furnishings that go inside the modulars.“It’s going to come down to cost,” said Bryant of the lease vs. own discussion.  He added, however, that there, “aren’t a lot of modulars out there right now”Bryant also provided an update on the district’s plan to issue ID cards to students who ride the bus.  He has said in the past that they are included in a two-year contract with Zonar, which equipped all of the district’s buses with GPSs. With the GPSs, the district is able to track its buses, including their location, whether they are being driven too fast or whether they are stopped too long in a given location.  Each of those functions bring a benefit to the district, said Bryant, citing among other things the fact that are places around Shell where the district has no ability to communicate with its drivers.But some parents, particularly at the elementary school, have voiced concerns about the cards being hacked and strangers possibly having access to personal information about their children and their families.Staff — specifically, administrators and secretaries — completed the Zonar training on Sept. 5 and the equipment needed to run the system is still being installed on the buses.The district is going to proceed cautiously, Bryant said. Instead of rolling it out to everyone, it will first do a test run, issuing the cards to about 20 or so people with ties to the building leadership team. “We’re going to let parents report to us about how they like it,” Bryant said. Other businessIn other news to emerge from a relatively light agenda for the September meeting:• Kyler Flock provided the Student Council report, saying the council had been busy participating in Suicide Prevention Week activities and that it recently held its first ever Student Council election. This week, Student Council officers planned to attend a leadership summit in Riverton and begin preparations for Homecoming, which is Sept. 23-27.• Charlene Collingwood approached the school board about middle school swimming.  With no pool, there won’t be a Greybull-Cloud Peak program, as there has been in the past.  But she wanted to know whether the district would be willing to help pay transportation costs for middle school students to swim in either Worland or Lovell. She said she knew she was late in coming to the board, considering swimming season typically starts in November which is just about six weeks away, but she said approximately 10 kids from Greybull would be interested in swimming.Bryant told her that while the district is supportive of students who want to participate in programs not offered in Greybull, it has drawn the line in the past at paying for transportation costs, leaving that to the parents and the students themselves. In fact, three current GHS students are swimming with the Worland Warriors — and paying the transportation costs themselves.Trustee Selena Brown also noted that the board has placed a freeze on all new activities, citing concerns about the money being spent annually on activities.  But Trustee Mike Meredith said middle school swimming wasn’t a new program in his view because it has been offered by the district in the past.As for transportation costs, the challenge for the district isn’t paying for the gas, but rather, finding a school vehicle and driver to make the runs for participants, according to Trustee Jamie Flitner. On top of that, with no pool, the district didn’t budget any money for a middle school swimming program for the current fiscal year.The decision ended with Supt. Barry Bryant telling the board and Collingwood that he would investigate all aspects of the middle school swimming issue, including participation and transportation costs.• In personnel moves, the board accepted the resignation of Becky Sorenson, a paraprofessional at the elementary school, and Melanie Craft, who had been employed as a cook for the district.  In Sorenson’s case, she’s leaving effective Sept. 30 in order to devote more time to her husband’s outfitting business.  Craft, meanwhile, has taken another job.On the hiring side, the board tapped Michael Jaycox as a senior class sponsor, Teresa Boyer as a junior class sponsor and Dawn Thur as a Student Council advisor.• The board approved out-of-district requests from Juan and Monica Porras and Richard and Cassie Russell for their children to attend Greybull schools.  The Porras children are in the first and fourth grades, the Russell children in the first and third grades.• In the clerk’s report, Bryant provided an overview of a recent board retreat, which one board member called “a good discussion.”  Among the topics: district goals, stakeholder involvement, new weighted GPA system, a four-day school week, sports schedules, Response to Intervention, a proposal to one day move the weight room equipment from Buff Gym to the GMS Gym, the growing ELL population, a proposal for a town hall meeting for stakeholders, the school lunch program, the loss of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and the need for new volunteers for the fresh fruits and vegetables program in the schools.• The board recognized home-school registrations for four students: Alyssa Roll, Emily Roll, Lea Petersen and Tripp Flora.• In administrator reports, GES Principal Brenda Jinks wrote that her school’s open house for parents is set for Tuesday, Sept. 24 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., Greybull police officers have been working with the school on bike safety, stranger danger and monthly drills, and that DIBELS and NWEA Map testing began Sept. 9 and would provide the school with “new baseline data to form teaching and learning groups and target specific deficits in students’ learning.”GMS Principal Scott McBride said student participation in activities is “very good” to begin the year, reporting that 41 are out for football, 40 for volleyball, 32 for Student Council, 16 for Challenge of the Books, 25 for Science Fair/Olympiad and 42 for band.  Parent Night at GMS is set for Thursday, Sept. 26 at 6:30 p.m.  The school is touting the event as “Dinner and 10 Ways to Help Your Student Get an ‘A.’”  It will be held at GMS this year.GHS Principal Ty Flock said his building was also in the midst of NWEA Map testing. In addition, he said a closer look at ACT scores showed a large gulf between students who scored well and those who didn’t — and that the school has taken steps to try to narrow that gap.  After school programs are also getting started at the school, he said.Special Services Director Lee Clucas reported that the district had sent 10 new employees to get training in Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI) and that 10 staff members attended a recent conference in Billings on autism and sensory needs.• The board reinstated a student’s request to be allowed to participate in activities.  The male student, who attends GHS, can practice through Jan. 10 and resume full status with respect to activities on Jan. 10, 2014.Supt. Barry Bryant said school policy permits students to appeal one year after they are suspended from activities.  The district allowed this particular student to appeal a little earlier, and the decision to allow that student to practice between now and Jan. 10, 2010 is an exception, said Bryant, adding that the student has been barred from activities since January.If there is another incident involving the suspension reason, the student would not be allowed to participate in activities for the rest of his time in high school.