Students, Teachers Back to School Next Week; Business Teacher Hired

By REX ZIMMERMAN

With the start of school just around the corner (August 25th), the U.S.D. 255 Board of Education met on Monday, August 8, to make final preparations, including hiring teachers and approving the 2017 budget for publication. Board members present were Deb Helfrich, Mariah Doherty, Mike Myers, Melissa Simpson and Mark Pollock, along with board president Steve Allen. Also present were grade principal Eric Stoddard, 7-12 principal Brent Shaffer and superintendent Dr. Andi Williams.

Boys Ranch Report

After approval of the agenda, previous minutes and bills for payment, the board heard from Michael Simpson, president of Freedom Gates Boys Ranch in Hazelton. Mr. Simpson informed the board that the boys ranch is becoming a “licensed” facility and hopes to be operating under the new regulations by October 1.

During the past few years, Freedom Gates Boys Ranch has been operating as a foster child operation, which meant that they really had no control over how long the boys at the ranch stayed. Moving from foster children to private placement will mean that boys coming to the ranch will spend a minimum of 18 months at the facility, giving them at least a couple of years in the local school system.

Mr. Simpson gave much praise to the local school system, especially 7-12 principal Brent Shaffer, for how well they have accepted the boys, with the goal of getting a high school diploma and moving on to college or trade school. He said as Freedom Gates moves into its new licensing phase, it should eventually result in more students attending South Barber schools.

Pl Group Final Master Plan

Dana Dunn with P1 Group gave the board a quick overview of the “final master plan” for renovations at the high school, noting the suggestion that the board look at the proposal over a five-year period.

Mr. Dunn said most of the improvements in the plan could come under the term of “deferred maintenance” including such items as new heating and air conditioning, lighting, carpet, new freezer for the high school kitchen, etc. He added that new plumbing fixtures were a “must” as they had long outlived their usefulness.

He also said that storm shelters recommended for both the high school and grade school building did not have be FEMA certified, which would reduce the costs. He also suggested that plans for a covered walkway between the high school and junior high buildings be turned into a storm shelter instead, allowing it to serve both needs.

Another items of urgent importance was the rotting gas line on the high school roof. In working on the project, however, Mr. Dunn said it was discovered that the gas meter to the high school was located 1,024 feet south of the high school building, with the district currently responsible for maintenance of the pipe from the meter to the building.

Mr. Dunn said in negotiations with Kansas Gas Service, the first figure for moving the meter up to the high school building was “in six figures”, but said they eventually came down to a cost of $8,000 for the project. Moving the meter must be done before the urgent work needed on the gas pipes on the high school roof, he said.

In comparison, Mr. Dunn pointed out that the 3 or 4 million dollars over five years does not compare to the estimated price of a new high school building, which would run around $19.6 million, he said. Financing was briefly discussed, with Mr. Dunn saying that the district looked to be a prime candidate for an “Energy Performance Contract” which would allow the district to pay off the costs with the savings from reduced utility costs following the improvements. Presently, the district is just a couple of years away from paying off the bonds for the remodeling done at the elementary school using a portion of its Capital Improvement funds each year.

Budget Notes

Dr. Andi Williams gave an update on the 2017 budget draft, which was published in last week’s Kiowa News. The budget increase is needed to keep district funds stable due to a loss in valuation from $62.7 million last year down to 39.5 million this year due to the large drop in oil and gas valuation.

Dr. Williams noted that the district has been granted $219,000 from the state in “extraordinary needs funds”, but the money slated to be used for this need has been “swept” by Governor Brownback into the general fund to help with the state’s severe budget shortfall. She said it will be included in the budget so it can be used if the funds are eventually released.

Seventeen teachers attended the Camp EdGE update, and the public is invited to “like” the school district on Facebook “South Barber USD 255”.

New teacher in-service is Friday, August 19, district in-service is Monday, Aug. 22 and building in-service is Wednesday, August 24. First day of school for students is Thursday, August 25.

In other action, the board:

  • Approved the cost of second helpings at $1.00 for the elementary school and $1.25 for the 7-12 building.
  • Appointed Deb Helfrich as Governmental Relations Network Alternate.
  • Approved Ben E. Keith as milk supplier and primary food service vendor for the school district for the 2016-2017 school year. Dr. Williams said they will provide milk six cents per carton cheaper then the current vendor, and she said the district hopes to save as much as $18,000 or more on food services.
  • Approved Pam Malone as high school business teacher, replacing Jeff Lantz. She comes to South Barber from Moundridge and has four years experience as business teacher.
  • Accepted the resignation of Karen Lambert as high school cook.
  • Voted to approved Kaley Stoner as kitchen cook.
  • Approved Jerydth Twymann as Online Program Facilitator, replacing Veda Holt.
  • Approved the resignation of Roy Henson as assistant high school football coach.
  • Accepted a $25,000 donation from the Verda Diel estate to be used for scholarships as instructed in her will.
  • Approved selling excess computer towers and monitors at a cost of $100 each. Teachers will be allowed first chance as a purchase with any extra being offered to the public.•
  • Was reminded by Principal Stoddard that the Elementary School will have an Open House on Wednesday, August 24, from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. He said students can bring their supplies to school and meet their teachers.