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Kenmare School Board selects construction management and architect for potential expansion

The Kenmare school board took another step toward a major building project Thursday when they selected a construction management company and architect during the March board meeting.

3/27/13 (Wed)

By Caroline Downs

The Kenmare school board took another step toward a major building project Thursday when they selected a construction management company and architect during the March board meeting.

The four board members present reviewed information about qualifications, personnel and fee schedules received from JLG Architects, Kraus-Anderson Construction Company, EAPC Architects Engineers and Construction Engineers.

Superintendent Duane Mueller recommended the board accept construction management services from Kraus-Anderson and architect services from JLG.

Board member Michele Nelson expressed her concern about making a decision without having time to review the qualifications of all the companies. “I’m going to be taking a leap of faith, voting for something based on somebody else’s recommendation,” she said.

However, board member Blaine Huff wanted to see the discussion continue about a potential expansion, with some decisions made by June if possible.

Mueller repeated his preference for working with Kraus-Anderson. “I’ve seen some results of their work in Minot, at Longfellow Elementary School and [the new] Ramstad Middle School,” he said.

Board members approved a motion to work with Kraus-Anderson and JLG by a 3-1 margin.

Superintendent Mueller reported representatives of Kraus-Anderson would be available to meet with the board on April 4th to provide a building assessment report and discuss various options for adding classroom and gymnasium space. “They have some potential dollar figures,” he said, adding that other preliminary information would be discussed as well, including possible construction timelines.

In a related matter, Mueller reported specifications for the high school’s furnace project had been prepared for bid requests. “We estimate this will take about six weeks to tear out the old boiler and put in [a new electric boiler],” he said.

Board members indicated they wanted a bid request to be published as soon as possible, with bids due by April 29th.

Proposed KHS schedule
offers 7th period study hall
As directed by the Curriculum and Technology Committee earlier in the year, KHS principal Robert Thom presented a draft schedule for the 2013-2014 school year that would offer a study hall period to students only during the final hour of the day.

According to Thom’s draft schedule, the majority of students would participate in study halls that hour, with band, one section of seventh grade social studies, peer mentoring and the work co-operative program also offered at that time.

“The only way to make this work is to put band during seventh hour and I hesitate to do that,” he said. However, he mentioned that 32 students signed up for the band class during seventh period.

Thom also pointed out that with 73 students potentially enrolled in study hall, more teachers would need to be available to supervise a study hall.

He distributed copies of the schedule with student numbers for each class offered during each period and suggested that courses with only one or two students enrolled, such as environmental science, art and psychology/sociology, would not be offered next year.

Classes scheduled on the ITV network would not be changed or dropped.

“I hate to eliminate classes,” Thom said, “but in order to free up teachers for seventh period [study hall], that’s the only way I see to do it.”

Some teachers would supervise a study hall, while other teachers would have a prep period at that time, making them available to assist students with questions. “This also accomplishes what we wanted for those students who have to leave at the end of the day for activities,” Thom said. “They’re not missing as many classes this way.”

According to Thom, most of the teaching staff likes the concept of the seventh period study hall. “But when you sit down and try to build a schedule to make it work, it’s hard,” he said.

Nelson asked how Thom would prioritize which classes to eliminate. “I have a concern that if we take away those classes with one or two students enrolled, that’s something those students want to take,” she said. “If we don’t go to a seventh hour study hall, does that mean we don’t eliminate certain classes of only two or three students?”

“Not necessarily,” Thom replied. “That’s been a discussion before, right here with the board. Can we justify those low numbers in a class?”

“If I see a class with just one or two students, I’m going to be in favor of moving those students to another class,” said board member Lenny Rodin.

Thom asked for direction from the board before proceeding with further work on the schedule and possibly changing classes for those student enrolled in classes that may have to be dropped. “I want to have the preliminary work on this done by April 3rd,” he said. “We won’t know if the seventh hour study hall will work until we try it.”

Nelson asked if Thom was developing an alternative schedule, but he said his direction had been to create a schedule with the common study hall. “If we don’t like it, then we go back to a more traditional schedule,” he said.

Board members encouraged Thom to proceed with the draft schedule presented, with Nelson asking to see a more concrete version.

In related news, Superintendent Mueller reported the Curriculum Committee had started a discussion about offering advanced placement courses instead of dual credit courses.

He explained dual credit courses require a specific ACT score in order for students to enroll in the class, while AP classes would allow students to take the class without the ACT score requirement. At the conclusion of an AP class, students could decide whether or not to take a final exam in order to earn college credit. Mueller indicated the committee would hold another meeting in April about the two options.

The committee also talked about ordering one or two more mobile carts of 25 to 30 laptop computers for student use at the high school. The group postponed the purchase until the end of the fiscal year to determine if funds would be available.

Calendar accepted,
with questions
about early release
for teacher training
Board members accepted the 2013-2014 calendar on a unanimous vote, but they had several questions about a proposal from Superintendent Mueller regarding early release time for staff members each month.

After reviewing copies of the proposed calendar, Mueller announced the Minot Regional Education Association (REA) offered to send instructors to train teachers how to plan for, implement and assess the new Common Core teaching standards. The Common Core standards have been mandated for use by all North Dakota school districts in kindergarten through 12 grades beginning with the 2013-2014 academic year.

The Minot REA proposes a 2-hour training with teachers once each month for a total of 18 hours, with students released from classes early on those training days.

“There are some other schools in the area doing this already,” Mueller said, naming Surrey as one such district. “Some schools are further ahead of us in implementing the Common Core standards. Some are in the same boat we are, some are behind us.”

He continued, “Working with the Common Core is going to require some different techniques in the classroom. It’s a big jump in the curriculum, in some cases.”

Elementary principal Janis Gerding supported the proposal. “My position is it’s better to be proactive than reactive,” she said. “There’s not a lot of training that’s been done for our teachers for the Common Core. Otherwise, we’ll be sending teachers away to training and workshops other places.”

Board members asked about the days of the week or dates of the training sessions, but Mueller said a schedule from the REA might not be available until April.

Rodin expressed his concern that students participating in after-school activities would have to wait two hours, unsupervised, for their practices. However, Thom said that given the current coaching staff, enough non-school staff coaches should be available to begin the activities or supervise the students.

Further action on teacher release time for Common Core training sessions will be included on the agenda for the April board meeting. Mueller assured board members that early release days would be considered instructional days for students.

The school calendar, as approved, has 175 instructional days, with classes beginning August 19, 2013, and ending May 21, 2014. The Christmas holiday break begins December 21st, with school resuming on January 2nd.

A teacher-comp day is scheduled for March 19, 2014, following parent-teacher conferences on March 18th. March 20 and 21 are then scheduled for spring break days.

Mueller announced that Kenmare would host the regional vocal music festival on March 14, 2014. Some schools dismiss students for that event in order to use rooms throughout the building, while other districts hold classes.

April 21, 2014, and May 22nd and 23rd are available as make-up days, if necessary, and graduation is scheduled for Sunday, May 25th, during Memorial Day weekend.

Elementary may add
4th grade teacher
Principal Gerding reported one new kindergarten student and one new first grader, for a total elementary school enrollment of 174. She announced kindergarten registration would take place in early April, with 18 students expected to enroll from the Little Learners Preschool.

“I’m hoping to keep two kindergarten classes next year because the Common Core expectations increase so much,” she said.

She noted the current third grade class of 26 students is divided between two teachers and said she preferred keeping that class split next year. She also reminded board members one of the two teachers with a second grade classroom this year would likely teach first grade next year to accommodate the class sizes.

“So, do we add a fourth grade teacher next year?” she asked.

Board members will continue discussion about Gerding’s request to hire an additional elementary teacher.

In other business:
•Minutes from the February meeting and payment of the district’s bills were approved as presented.

•Board members approved open enrollment applications for the 2013-2014 school year for five kindergarten students from the Bowbells School District and three students from the Mohall Lansford Sherwood School District, including one kindergarten student, one fourth grade student and one senior who currently attends KHS on a tuition waiver.

•Blaine Huff reported as chairman of the Negotiations and Finance Committee that the group had discussed the district budget, insurance and transportation costs, and raising the pay for substitute teachers. However, no recommendations were presented for board action, with committee members still waiting for the state legislature to finish its work on the education portion of the state budget.

•The board accepted a petition from the Kenmare Education Association to be recognized as the negotiating unit for the teaching staff.

•Board members approved a contract signed by Melanie Herman as a high school math instructor for the 2013-2014 school year. Superintendent Mueller noted Herman, who has a master’s degree, has 21 years of teaching experience and currently instructs online courses for Williston State College.

•Superintendent Mueller announced a storm make-up day would be held May 23, 2013. Classes were scheduled to end for the year on May 22nd.

•Mueller reported the Kenmare district would send a small group  of teachers to a Title I and School Improvement meeting on April 15th. A team of the district’s teachers will also attend an emergency management session scheduled for May 28th in Minot.

•Board members asked Superintendent Mueller to obtain price quotes for cameras to be installed in the two new mini-buses scheduled for delivery and the activity bus. “Now, seeing what those cameras are capable of doing, I wouldn’t mind seeing those in our other buses, too,” Mueller said. “They provide a ‘peace of mind’ factor. A couple of our drivers have said now they wouldn’t drive if we didn’t have them.”

•The filing deadline for school board candidates is Friday, April 12th, at 4 pm. Any candidates interested in positions currently held by Craig Ellsworth and Lars Christensen should contact business manager Renae Murphy immediately to obtain the necessary paperwork.

•The Building Committee, with members Doug Miller, Rodin and Nelson, will meet Thursday, April 4th, at 8 am to walk through both school buildings and consider projects and needs of those facilities.

•The board will hold a special meeting on April 4th, beginning at 9 am, to discuss the district’s building needs with representatives of Kraus-Anderson and to hold an executive session related to upcoming contract negotiations with teachers.

•The next regular meeting of the Kenmare school board was scheduled for Tuesday, April 16th, beginning at 7 pm at the high school.