Sheridan school board weighs solar panel project, strategic planning

Shop expansion, football program discussed

SHERIDAN—The Sheridan school board held its monthly meeting on Tuesday, November 13, beginning with a public comment period that centered on a potential agreement between the Sheridan and Twin Bridges school districts concerning the schools’ football programs.



Sheridan has discussed the idea of an agreement for the middle school football team at a number of meetings this summer and fall, while an inter-school agreement on the high school side was largely not discussed because of Montana High School Association (MHSA) rules that put the combined student body population of the two schools as too large to form a co-op team. Those rules have recently been changed, which may mean a co-op is more of a possibility than previously thought.

A high school agreement still has not been discussed in depth by the board, but the middle school agreement (not a formal inter-school co-op) is a more likely avenue for the 2019-2020 school year, allowing the schools to combine their teams if one school doesn’t have enough athletes turn out to field a full team. 

The potential for a high school agreement has ruffled some feathers around the local community.

“’I feel horribly blindsided, and by no means educated,” one attendee told the board. “I feel like this was a really rushed deal. There was no information given to me.”

“To me, the public really hasn’t been made aware,” said another member of the Sheridan community. “There hasn’t been any community input on this whole Sheridan-Twin Bridges thing. I’m not saying it’s a good or bad idea, I just think there’s a lot more that needs to be worked through.”

While a middle school agreement has been more positively received, any potential agreements or cooperatives will be put out for public comment at future board meetings before the two districts enter into any agreements.

After the public comment period, the board moved on to items formally listed on the agenda. 


Strategic Plan

Superintendent Mike Wetherbee touched on Sheridan’s strategic plan, a process which has been in the works for a considerable time. Wetherbee said there was still considerable work to be done, but that he was happy with the start of the strategic plan.

“The process has begun and the framework for [the plan] has been set up so we can bring more stakeholders to the table,” said Wetherbee. “A lot of what we’ve done will make that easier as we go forward.”

Wetherbee said the strategic plan will help the district decide on individual initiatives like curriculum and staff within the district, as well as both long- and short-range goals and plans for reaching them. As the strategic plan takes shape, elements of it will come up on future board agendas.

Part of the strategic plan that has already been addressed successfully has been the work of the district’s safety committee, which has implemented a couple of changed just within the first couple of months of the 2018-2019 school year. Those changes included ringing elementary school students in and out of the school day and updating the buildings’ locking systems for student safety and in the event of an emergency.

“That’s not a lightly-taken goal,” said Wetherbee.


Solar Panels

Another major part of the agenda centered on a future solar panel installation at Sheridan Schools. Dan Kenworthy of Sheridan-based Kenworthy Electric provided an update to the project, including an update on costs. 

The project is partially funded by a $30,000 grant, Kenworthy said, which wasn’t quite as large of a grant as was hoped for. The total cost of the proposed 50-kilowatt project is $78,500, which would have to be paid upfront by the district before being partially reimbursed by the grant funds. Those funds could be taken out of both the elementary and high school building reserve funds or the district’s flexibility fund, the board noted. The project would have a payback period of about eight years.

Kenworthy said projects like this generally take around a year and a half, but that this one is looking like it would be a bit quicker than that. The project could be retooled to reduce the cost or to change the size of the solar panels being installed, but he noted that that would provide a slight delay in the process and would depend on the availability of the different equipment.

Also on Sheridan’s November school board agenda:

• Wetherbee said he’s received generally positive feedback from his public presentations of Sheridan’s proposed new track facility. He will continue to put the plan out for public comment, and then hopefully the board will prepare to put a bond out in early 2019 to fund the addition.

• Agriculture Education teacher Rodney Braaten provided an update on a potential expansion to Sheridan’s school shop. The addition would be a 40’x60’ space and could include bays as well, hopefully built by Sheridan’s agriculture education classes overseen by a general contractor. Board member Will Fabel noted the goal of the project should be to keep it that way, allowing the students to learn hands-on while still having professional guidance.

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