The Chewelah School District Board of Directors officially approved to consolidate the seventh and eighth grades into the Jenkins High School campus at its March 20 regular meeting. The transition will be complete for the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.
They are consolidating the schools due to budget restrictions as a result of declining enrollment. JHS principal Kim Hogan told the board that he has started discussing with staff on how to best combine the 7-12 grades. He said some teachers will be moving to different classrooms and more space will need to be shared more often, such as classrooms which may not remain vacant during teacher prep periods.
Although the JHS and Jenkins Middle School are on a three trimester per year schedule, high school students take five periods a day but the middle school students take seven shorter periods so both schedules will have to be synced if they are sharing the same building. Hogan said they may go back to a semester system where it would take an entire year to fulfill a credit rather than two-thirds of year. Semesters could change what they are able to offer to students because they still need to maintain enough credits to graduate since the minimum requirements have increased since they switched to trimesters in 2009, he said.
Jenkins High School requires 28.5 credits to graduate although the state minimum is 20 credits.
The district administration plans to make site visits to different schools in the region that are combined middle and high schools to see how others have accomplished consolidation, however Hogan said there is not one school built exactly like JHS. He also said the parent advisory committee has walked around the school with him to start the discussion on how to approach student management for a 7-12 grade population in one building.
In other business, the school board approved to re-run the capital improvement bond proposal, which was rejected in February, in the November 2013 General Election. There was no further discussion on the issue as much deliberation took place at the March 6 special meeting. At that time the board came to the conclusion that November is more favorable than August as more voters are in town and the community will be able to see that the district followed through with its promise to consolidate to two buildings.
The bond resolution must be filed with the Stevens County Auditor’s Office by Aug. 6, however Superintendent Rick Linehan said they want to have it completed and decided by the June board meeting.
Rocky Verbeck has resigned as Jenkins High School head boys basketball coach and Jason Tapia has also resigned as head track coach. Both positions are now open to applicants. Linehan said there is currently a substitute in place to coach the JHS track team since the spring sports season started in February.
Meije Tiersma has also been hired as the high school assistant track coach and Stepheney Lane has been hired as the assistant softball coach.
The board approved the 2013 summer school plans for all school buildings and openings have been posted for three teachers, three paraeducators, three student assistants and a custodian for Gess summer school; two teachers and two paraeducators for JHS summer school; and four teachers and one paraeducator for Jenkins Middle School summer school.
The high school and middle school summer schools are funded by the state’s Learning Assistance Program (LAP) and the Title 1 federal program. The elementary school science camp is funded by the 21st Century grant that also supports the Gess All Stars after school program.
The school board also approved the policy and procedure for excused and unexcused absences that has been updated to comply with new state laws.
During public comment, Mike Markham, a Summit Valley School District resident whose children all graduated from Jenkins High School, spoke to the school board about his concerns for safety in schools. He said he has had a “burden on his heart” since the Sandy Hook Elementary School incident in December and has spoken with many school districts in the area about how safety should be their number one priority. Markham said just because a sign says it’s a “gun-free zone” does not mean he would not be able walk into every one of those schools armed with a weapon. He said he believes the teachers should be taught how to protect themselves and their students because that would give them a better chance to survive if something ever did happen.
Although he does not have specific answers to how to solve the problems concerning safety, Markham said he knows a lot of work needs to be done. Director Loretta Burkey agreed safety is important but said there are “no easy answers.”
Linehan said he shares Markham’s passion for school safety and invited him to meet with him and the building principals to discuss solutions. Hogan added that safety is always a topic on the agenda during parent advisory meetings.
Jenkins Middle School and Gess Elementary have been identified as “high progress” schools by the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) for being in the top 10 percent for reading and math improvement and performance on the state standardized tests over the last three years (2009-2012). JMS was one of only two middle schools that were awarded this honor, which was given to a total of 75 schools across Washington.
Director Tim Whitley reported on the state legislative education conference he attended with Linehan in mid-march. He said he appreciates seeing so many principals and superintendents network with each other and is grateful for Linehan’s connections to other school districts. He also said they were able to hear Governor Jay Inslee address the audience during the conference although Inslee did not leave Whitley confident in his commitment to funding education first.
Whitley said the best part of the conference was being able to sit down and speak to district legislators. Linehan also got to testify recently at a legislative hearing when they were looking for feedback from rural school districts.
Director Burkey mentioned that she was impressed at how many district staff members attended the early March community benefit dinner in support of Aaron Norris, an eighth grade student diagnosed with brain cancer. On April 20, A 5K fun run starting at Gess Elementary will benefit Norris as well.
Additionally, a benefit dinner and auction for JMS Principal Jon Symonds, who was paralyzed in a snowmobiling accident in December, is scheduled for Saturday, April 13 at Gess Elementary. Director Larry Kristiansen visited Symonds recently during his time at Pinewood Terrace Nursing Center in Colville, where he was placed until his house remodel was complete. Kristiansen said he seemed eager to get back to work as soon as it was possible.
Call the district at 685-6800 for more information on either fundraiser.
The next school board meeting will be April 17 at 6:30 p.m. at the District Office.
By Kellie Trudeau, The Independent Staff