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Elementary school gears up for more students

Posted 6/29/11 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

While school has only been out for just over a month, Steven Holen, district superintendent, informed the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 school board at its meeting on Monday, June 20, that there is plenty of activity going on at the elementary school.
Earlier in the year, the school board approved having three sections of classes from kindergarten through the sixth grade at the elementary school for the upcoming school year, and also hired new teachers to accommodate the additional sections.
Now, according to Holen, work has begun to increase the number of the classes to accommodate the projected number of new students.
And the process of adding new classrooms has not been without some inconveniences.
“The teachers’ workroom will be eliminated to make room for the new classrooms,” stated Holen. “And so is the storage room at the elementary school, as well as the computer room and the teachers’ lounge.”
According to Holen, the goal is to have enough classrooms to accommodate 501 students in the elementary school by the start of the new school year.
“We’re using every bit of space that we have available,” stated Sherry Lervick, elementary school principal.
According to Lervick, she is projecting an enrollment of 400 students this fall, but she knows that number is just an estimate.
“Once the housing is done, who knows how many more students we  could have,” stated Lervick.
During Monday night’s discussions on improvements at the elementary school, the board also approved spending up to $40,000 to purchase new student hallway lockers for all the classrooms except for the kindergarten through second grade wing.
“We just don’t have enough room in the hallways for all of the lockers,” stated Holen. “An option in the kindergarten through second grade classroom wing would be to install the lockers in the classrooms.”
During Monday night’s meeting, Holen also informed the board that the district will have a $300,000 shortfall in its 2010-2011 budget.
“The good news is that we took in more money than we had budgeted to receive,” stated Holen. “But we also spent more money than we had projected in several areas of our budget.”
According to Holen, the district spent more money than anticipated in substitute teacher salaries as well as new kindergarten books.
“We knew that we’d be spending more on books when we added an additional kindergarten class,” stated Holen. “And with one elementary school teacher being out on maternity leave, we spent more on  substitute salaries.”
But the one budget line item that hit the district hardest was the increase in diesel fuel costs resulting from higher fuel prices.
“We spent close to $100,000 just in diesel fuel,” stated Holen. “That was an increase of almost $20,000 more than we had budgeted.”
During Monday night’s meeting, the board also approved increasing the base salary for classified/ancillary staff positions to $10 per hour.
While the administration had recommended increases that would range from 65 to 85 cents per hour for those positions, the board felt that higher increases were warranted.
“I think that your recommendation is too low,” stated Gary Bruins, board member. “We spend a lot of money on buildings, etc. We need to do more for these employees. I’d feel comfortable raising these salaries, including bus drivers, by a combined increase of $1 per hour.”
In other action, the board:
• Was updated on the transportation storage facility. According to Holen, the project is basically finished with just minor ground work to be completed.
• Was informed by Holen that, according to HB 1194, if the district wants to raise its mill levy or wants to raise the actual dollar amount that it receives from property owners, it must hold a public hearing.
• Accepted a letter of resignation from Dee Ann Johnson, elementary school counselor.
• Approved hiring Ann Bryan as a Title 1 teacher.
• Approved hiring Amy Lundin as a fourth grade teacher.
• Was informed by Holen that three to four of the new teachers hired by the district have not been able to find housing.
• Was presented with an initial budget of $7,150,000 for the 2011-2012 school year.
• Was presented with the preliminary results of the district’s AYP scores.
• Approved a tuition free agreement for Jack McAlpin to attend the Killdeer School District.
• Tabled discussion on taking out a bond to refinance the ESG lease agreement.
• Was presented with information on the need to have a concussion management policy in place by August.