School board round-up, May
During this month’s Alder School Board meeting, several members of the public commented on the school’s mask policy, advocating for its removal next school year. The board will keep the mask policy in place for the remainder of the current school year and will take time over the summer to revisit the policy.
Madison County Superintendent Pam Birkeland said the board has to revisit their plan for CARES Act dollars and the board will do that in tandem with the mask policy consideration. The school year wraps up on May 27.
The board extended the declaration of emergency until 2023.
“Part of this is the state is still in a declaration of emergency and to keep those emergency policies, the 1900 series, you have to declare you’re in a state of emergency,” Birkeland said. School boards are advised to keep these polices as Covid is still a relatively volatile situation and they help with funding and making up for possible lost days due to teacher or student absence.
In an effort to reduce drop-off and pick-up congestion in front of the school, the board is considering adding a drive through on the Judy Lane side of the school. A fence would need to be moved closer to the school, but due to its old age, the board did not see that being a problem.
The board reviewed policies and certified the results of the voted building reserve levy. The 2021/2022 school year will run Aug. 23-June 3 and the board is working on filling in dates within the calendar.
A local bid for pole barn construction was reviewed, which Birkeland said was relatively high due to costs of lumber and labor. The board is planning on putting the bid out to Request For Proposal, meaning companies can look at project specifics and make a bid. The board will then assess bids and choose to go with or reject any received. CARES Act money will be used for this project, costing around $50,000, as it is creating a Covid-safe, outdoor learning environment.
The board approved the kindergarten/first grade teacher resignation and discussed staffing plans for the upcoming school year. So far, the plan is to keep the two certified teachers, existing aid and use a student teacher from the University of Montana, Western in Dillon, Mont.
“If we need something else, and we’re thinking tutoring, maybe hire someone who has a certificate or at least a college degree that would be able to come in to do some tutoring for loss of learning,” Birkeland said.
Typically, the staff looks at how many students are expected to attend Alder School each year and determines how many teachers are needed based on student load. Based on the numbers so far, the two certified teachers felt they could adequately split their duties between kindergarten and fifth grade, as long as there was an aid and a student teacher.
The Sheridan School Board seated four new board members after the May 4 election and ratified election results as part of the canvassing process. Kendra Horn remains board chair and Theresa Sutton the vice chair.
The board read and approved a handful of required policies and went through hiring and resigning processes for classified staff and fall and winter coaches and advisors. Driver’s education will begin in early July and the oldest school bus in the fleet was authorized to sell by the board. Funds from the sale will go into the elementary transportation fund. Students will present their portfolios during Portfolio Night and staff and students are looking forward to the end of the school year.
“Things are clicking along,” Superintendent Mike Wetherbee said.
On May 13, the school hosted a ‘fun night’ sponsored by Communities that Care, a prevention-based program focused on alcohol and drug-free environments. Baseball, football and capture the flag for the ‘little guys’ were played, and hamburgers and hotdogs were consumed. Wetherbee and Principal Rodney Stout are spearheading the Communities that Care events at the school.
“We’ve been working pretty hard to get that unit together and in motion for quite a while, and we’re starting to see some momentum,” Wetherbee said.
During the board’s June meeting, Wetherbee will present a threat assessment he has undertaken—in response to concerns about heightened violence in rural schools—to the board for the safety committee to consider, and then for the board to consider as a policy adoption.
Sheridan High School’s graduation will occur on May 30 at 1 p.m. on the football field, weather permitting.
The Twin Bridges School Board filled many certified and classified positions during the May meeting including special education, science, third grade, a strength coach and high school boys’ and girls’ basketball coaches and assistants. The high school boys’ basketball assistant was not filled, and the board approved extending the amount of time the high school girls’ basketball coach position was offered.
The board approved contracts with Tara Rhea, business manager clerk, and Superintendent Thad Kaiser and accepted resignations from special education, early kindergarten, first and third grade teachers.
Interlocal agreements with other school districts were approved and contracts with School Services of Montana and the Montana High School Association were renewed.
A job description for the half transportation position was provided to the board and the board voted to extend the contract for this position to the individual affected by decisions made during the March 17 board meeting, where positions were reduced due to necessary budget cuts. A half-transportation position was combined with industrial arts/agriculture education position, which was combined and reduced to a 1.5 program, during the March meeting. The individual affected did not agree to sign the original memorandum of understanding regarding the positions but will be able to accept or decline the updated transportation description Superintendent Kaiser provided to the board last week.
After trustee elections closed on May 4, the board canvassed and ratified the election results.
Alexis Sandru retired from the board, and Jackie Bevan will take the open seat. Since Bevan was appointed by the board, not by election, it will be a one-year position. Reorganizing the board, which happens each year during May meetings, led to Patty Nelson taking up the board chair position and Hannah Reynolds the vice chair.
Twin Bridges High School’s graduation will occur on May 23 at 2 p.m. in the gymnasium.