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BP board approves plans for alternative high school with HLV

By JUDY SCHLESSELMAN

Plans to develop an alternative high school program for Belle Plaine and HLV students are moving forward for next fall.

The Belle Plaine Board of Education in March approved the concept of an alternative school. Recently, staff from Belle Plaine, HLV and Kirkwood Community College visited alternative programs in Monticello, Tipton, Sigourney and Williamsburg. Those attending the May 19 board meeting were impressed with what they saw.

Central Elementary building head and teacher Cherie Brown said she was impressed with the programs’ flexibility and the diversified reasons students attend the schools. Brown also observed, “The accountability factor was outstanding.” Principal Dennis Phelps noted how each program is unique to the individual district. “They all made it work at all different levels,” he said.

Board President Joyce Livermore was also impressed with the programs and said the joint effort would be “ours, not exactly like somebody else’s.” She said the program would be one step in helping students at risk of dropping out.

“After you go through other help for those students who are having trouble and are potential dropouts, then this is considered. It’s not the first consideration.” She also stressed that an alternative program is not an easy out.

“If you think this is an easy way for those kids, it’s not,” she noted.

Board vice president Don McKinney reminded the board that each student learns differently. He said the curriculum, which some board members would like to see developed immediately, should be determined by student needs.

Director Mike Bachelder indicated at previous board meetings he is not necessarily against the program but is concerned about its cost in the event of future state budget cuts. “I’d hate to see us start something and not be able to continue it,” he stated.

Superintendent Bill Lynch said the HLV district remains interested in the shared program. It could be located in a separate facility or housed in either school district.

Director Jim Pierce said misinformation is circulating throughout the community, including a rumor that the program will be housed in Lincoln Junior High after that building is vacated later this month.

Pierce said the district has an obligation to provide an education for struggling students. As for the need, he said 23 high school students were failing three or more classes at the end of this year’s first semester.

The board unanimously approved Pierce’s motion to continue plans for an alternative high school to be located at HLV, pending HLV board approval. With Kirkwood’s assistance, staff from both districts will develop the curriculum during the summer months. Program costs will be finalized by the July school board meeting.

Programming

Lynch presented several programming options under consideration for the 2010-11 school year, including development of a new high school English class to focus on reading skills, new technology partially funded by the Microsoft settlement and utilizing a third teacher in first grade to provide additional time for reading and math.

Development of the new high school ICN (Iowa Communications Network) room is now underway, Lynch reported. He said there is a problem getting direct hard cable to the school, and the district is looking at utilizing compressed video for the service. The school is working jointly with ICN and Kirkwood to get the system up and running so ICN classes can be offered for the upcoming school year.

Personnel

A request from Lynch to allow guidance counselor Lisa Daily additional paid days during the summer to work on class scheduling failed to gain board approval.

Jim Pierce questioned why extra hours are needed this year, when in the past staff did the work during contracted days.

“I think the one item that’s different this year is the coordination of schedules with the teachers,” Lynch said.

Principal Dennis Phelps said making a schedule is more complicated than simply plugging it into a computer. “It keeps changing and probably doesn’t get totally finalized until June,” he said.

Pierce suggested that staff come in about a week before the start of school in August to work on scheduling once more is known about ICN offerings and classes.

Pierce said in the past, the principal and secretary worked together on the schedule.

“I don’t see why we should be paying extra when we have two people on contract right now,” Pierce said.

The board accepted the resignations of Leah Mast and Cathy O’Hara as high school cheer sponsors. “We have truly enjoyed this experience and will miss the girls. This program has come so far in the last several years, and we truly believe given more support, it can remain a very strong program,” their letter to the board stated.

Building project

The board approved a change order for $688 to add a window between the librarian’s office and the computer room at Longfellow Elementary. Vertical wall panels for the Longfellow gym were also approved.

A change order request for $2,205 for two additional floor drains in the mechanical area at Longfellow Elementary drew board reaction. The drains were not part of the original design but were recommended by the mechanical contractor. The board felt the drains should have been in the plan and questioned the added expense. The board approved the change order, but the district will confer with its lawyers to determine if the additional cost can be taken from the architect’s fee, according to the contract.

School calendar

Following a public hearing, the board approved the 2010-11 school calendar with 182 days of instruction. Classes will begin Wednesday, Aug. 25 and dismiss one hour early through August 27. Thanksgiving holiday will be Nov. 24-26; Christmas break will be Dec. 23 –Jan. 1; spring break will be observed March 25-28; Easter break is set for April 22. Three makeup days are built into the calendar. Additional days lost to bad weather will be added at the end of the year.

Other business

In other business, the board:

– gave approval to the high school Science Club for a three-day educational trip to Chicago in early June. Between 12 and 17 students and three adult chaperones, including teachers Dan Akers and Sally Coleman, will attend. Students will pay the $250 fee. The district will provide school vans.

 – approved a budget amendment for the 2009-10 school year.

– approved the 2008-09 district audit.

– approved a four-week summer program for elementary students.

– authorized Lynch to employ summer help. The positions would be open to all qualified applicants.

– voted to participate in a cooperative food service purchasing program through the Iowa Educator’s Consortium.

– approved a $50 mileage reimbursement to parents who drive their children to College for Kids this summer at Coe College, Cedar Rapids.

– established a $300 driver education fee for students who live outside the Belle Plaine district. Belle Plaine residents pay $250.

– voted to purchase two black and white copy machines for a total of $20,057 and a color copier at $10,943. The district has leased its copiers and will realize a significant cost savings.

– approved the sale of two district vehicles, a 1991 Ford truck and 1993 Aerostar van. The vehicles will be advertised and the bids brought to the board for approval.

The board went into closed session for its annual evaluation of the superintendent.

UPDATED May 21, 2010 11:09 AM

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