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By Mike Scott
After first floating the idea two months ago, the Clark County R-1 school board approve a plan to change the boundaries for Black Hawk and Running Fox Elementary schools. The plan is a move to help crowding conditions at Black Hawk.
The plan will eventually require elementary students living in Revere and to the southeast of Revere, as well as those in the St. Patrick and Lake of the Oaks areas, to attend Running Fox. Families living in those areas that current have students attending Black Hawk will be given the opportunity to be “grandfathered in”, allowing them to stay at Black Hawk. However, they may be required to provide their own transportation.
“If the bus comes by there, and we can get them to Kahoka, they’ll be able to ride the bus,” said Superintendent Dr. Ritchie Kracht.
Several Running Fox staff members were at Tuesday’s board meeting to express their concerns about adding students to Running Fox. They noted that Black Hawk as six paraprofessionals, while Running Fox has two. Administration countered, noting that while there are six paraprofessionals at Black Hawk, that school has 380 students. By contrast, Running Fox has about 90 students.
Megan Wendling, who directs federal programs for the district, reported that federal guidelines state that the per pupil expenditure should be roughly the same at each school building.
“Running Fox has three times the per-pupil expenditure (of federal dollars) as Black Hawk,” said Wendling.
“We pay Title Reading teachers and Title Math teachers with Federal Funds. This is why we are making changes and our new Title Reading teacher will be half time at Running Fox and half time at Black Hawk instead of full time at Running Fox,” Kracht explained in an email to The Media.
“The redistricting will get a few more kids to Running Fox, to help balance the numbers,” said Kracht. Currently, approximately 20-30 students live in the affected areas. With the “grandfathering”, allowing current students and their siblings to remain at Black Hawk, it may take several years before the numbers are better balanced.
“It will be a fluid situation,” said board member Jason Acklie.
Kracht also reported that the building improvement plans are on track for the summer.
“They will start at Running Fox as soon as school is over. When they’re done there, they will start on the second floor of Black Hawk,” Kracht told board members.
All the installation work, except for the outdoor units, should be completed by late July or early August. The units to air condition the gyms will arrive in late August.
“We will be having weekly meetings with Veregy,” Kracht added.
Kracht also reported that the district may have to eliminate two bus routes this fall due to a shortage of drivers.
Kracht also gave the board an update on legislative matters.
Topping the list is the $38,000 minimum salary for new teachers, which was passed in the budget.
“That will only affect teachers that are currently making less than $38,000 now,” said Kracht.
The state will fund 70 percent of the increase, leaving the additional 30 percent to the school districts.
“We currently have 17 teachers earning less than $38,000,” said Kracht.
“It would cost us $581,000 if we gave everyone a similar increase,” he said.
“This is going to get ugly,” said new board member Zach Nixon. “The state’s putting us in a bind.”
“We have only three ways to pay teachers more,” said Kracht. “The state can pay more, we can raise local taxes, or we can reduce staff. Do you think voters are going to approve higher taxes?”
One bright note from the legislature is that the district is expected to get an additional $200,000 in transportation reimbursement. However, it is a one-time increase.
At present, the school district spends roughly $700,000 per year on transportation, and receives roughly $150,000 in state reimbursement. With skyrocketing diesel fuel prices, the money won’t go far.
A host of other new school requirements were expected to be passed before the end of the legislative session. These included mandatory reading intervention, child abuse investigation requirements, Holocaust Education, provided state-approved gifted education teachers and many other items.
“I anticipate schools will have to hire a lot of people,” Kracht said.
If the legislation passes, The Media will review the new requirements in an upcoming issue.
The board also considered the purchase of two pieces of property across the street from the Middle School, which are currently owned by Joann Ragan. Board members decided to decline Ragan’s offer to sell them to the school before selling them to another buyer.
In other business, the board:
-Accepted a surplus property bid for a shed at Running Fox. The high bidder of the four bids received was Staci Smith, in the amount of $410.
-Approved an agreement with Kahoka Motors to provide a car for Driver’s Education instruction.
-Kracht reported that the school district’s share of the April election cost $4580.
-Kracht reported that school revenues are coming in higher than expected, because the assessed valuation increased by $5 million instead of the expected $500,000.
-Kracht also reported that due to the pandemic, the Department of Elementary and Secondary education will allow districts to use pre-pandemic attendance figures to calculate state funds.
-Accepted the following resignations:
1. Katrina Nixon – RF Principal
2. Tina Birck – Title Reading at RF (Tina Retired)
3. Tammy Shannon – BH/MS night custodian
4. Ann Dever – Dance Team Coach
5. Camron Mack – MS Softball and MS Basketball
-Made the following new hires
1. Sandy Frazier – HS Special Education Teacher
2. Tressa Jackson – MS/RF Guidance Counselor
3. Daniel Walker – Building Trades Teacher
4. Pat Daley – Indian Pride Custodian
5. Curtis Yates – BH/ MS Night Custodian
-Agreed to review update board policies at the June meeting.
-The next meeting of the school board will be June 9 at 7:00pm.