The Eden Valley-Watkins School Board is moving forward with plans to go paperless. Using BoardBook, a web-based secure system, all documents pertaining to the board will be accessible to board members online using a computer or tablet reader. Agendas, minutes, financial reports, policies and more will be kept online, searchable by board members and school administration. No longer will multiple sets of board packets need to be photocopied and mailed out before each meeting. It is anticipated that the cost savings each year will pay for the system, about $2,000 a year. The board’s goal is to have BoardBook up and ready for the June board meeting.
Science curriculum was presented to the board, as it is up for cyclical review. Sharon Borgert, Heidi Kuechle, and Dave Dziengel presented, and the board approved the new curriculum that had gone through extensive review and planning, and a detailed report prepared. The new curriculum is very rigorous, with each grade level building on the previous grade. Grades K-3 now have books, where they used to only have science kits. EV-W has chosen chemistry instead of physics for the tenth-grade requirement beginning with the class of 2015.
Activities Director Dave Schneider presented a district facility use fee schedule that was approved.
Superintendent Messman presented an update on the school’s building projects. Key locks have been updated and new key fobs will be distributed to staff. The punch list for contractors continues to be worked on. In early June, some of the floors are scheduled to be replaced, landscaping will be done, and a top coat of asphalt will be applied to the parking lot. The board will open bids for Phase II (which was revised) April 11. The board has three years to utilize bonding funds, and their first priority is an air handler at Watkins Elementary. The high school has accepted a vendor for installing a stage in the new gym, and work could begin in 2-3 weeks. A new sound system should be installed in the old gym in time for graduation (which will be held in the old gym since the stage in the new gym won’t yet be ready).
With the upcoming city project (streets, water and sewer lines), the school will need to install a new sewer line, from the high school up to Hwy. 22, north to Corner Bar, and then back to the school. The current temporary line goes under the new gym, and that line must be closed off once the new line is in. $150,000 has been set aside for this project that will be coordinated with the city’s work this summer.
The board approved the capital outlay budget for 2013-18. It calls for $205,000 in capital expenditures in 2013-14, $205,000 in 2014-15, $202,000 in 2015-16, and $202,000 in 2016-17. This includes additional expenditures for the high school stage, as planned.
Testing at both the elementary schools and the high school is under way this week.
Senior high awards night will be at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 8, immediately following the scholarship night program at 7 p.m. Fine Arts awards will be included in the awards program, in hopes of increasing attendance.
The 5K walk/run for grades 7-12 and staff is scheduled for Wednesday, May 15.
Graduation is Thursday, May 30, in the old gym (for the last time).
Maintenance of the city ballfield (used by EV-W schools as well as the Hawks baseball team) was discussed. Costs are shared with the school, city, and Hawks.
The board has begun its strategic planning process. (Read more about this in Mr. Messman’s column on page 11.) The first meeting was last week, and the public is invited to participate in this process, in meetings from 5:30-
7 p.m. on Wednesdays, May 15, 22 and 29, in the high school library. The goal is to have a large, diverse group that can give effective feedback to the board. This is the best way that the board can be responsive to what residents want and need in its schools.
A large unknown for the school, looming ominously, is the Affordable Care Act. Superintendent Messman is closely watching it, and has summarized the 2,000-page document into a 1 1/2-page list of possible impact on the school district. It is not yet known if schools will be included, but at this point it is assumed that they will. If the district does not participate, it could face a $180,000 penalty the first year, with penalties increasing each year. It is a complex issue, and many aspects of it are still unknown. The board’s approach will be to wait and see what develops by the end of the state legislative session May 20. They will have until Oct. 1, 2014, to implement Affordable Care (if required to). There will be time to restructure employee contracts before then, if needed. With this large, additional expense looming in the district’s future, the superintendent and board are preparing to consider budget cuts that will allow for the added health insurance expenses (or penalties) that seem to lie ahead. An initial list of potential expense reductions and revenue increases was presented to the board at the
April 10 meeting. These include retirements, raising fees, eliminating low-enrollment elective courses, and support staff reduction. These are options., and everything is up for discussion at this point.
Unrelated to budget cuts, a letter of nonrenewal of teaching contract has been sent to Tara Wood, a probationary teacher and speech pathologist. Because she was hired with a waiver of licensure for speech pathology, this is a required end-of-year step. The job has been posted, and Wood may re-apply for the job; she could be rehired, with another waiver of licensure, if no licensed candidates are found.
The next board meeting is Wednesday, May 8.