School Board Talks Facilities

Chewelah Superintendent Rick Linehan has announced that the district will most likely be consolidating to two buildings starting fall of the 2013-2014 school year, although all the details for how that will happen have yet to be decided. He said this at the Chewelah School Board of Directors meeting on April 18 as something to consider as they continue work on developing a school facilities plan that can be successful with voters.

Linehan said they will go to just using two buildings because of a continued decline in enrollment as well as open opportunities to gain funding for new construction in the future.

Linehan said to qualify for state match for another building, they need to abandon the square footage of the Jenkins Middle School and categorize it as unusable for K-12 education. However, the district will still be able to use the building for other things such as possible skills center classes and employee offices.

Director Larry Kristianson also inquired about re-running the capital levy for Snyder Field improvements since it did not pass in February. Linehan said they will be working on those plans for the next several months and will have more information about the filing process at the May meeting.

Linehan said another possibility for improving the track and field would be to run the proposal as part of a large capital bond for a new building as long as it is on the same property. This would qualify the entire project for state match when athletic facilities do not usually get state match.

The school board met with members of the school and community on April 17 for a facilities task force meeting. The board said they were impressed by the number of people that turned out and were glad at least half of the participants were from outside the school. Linehan also plans to meet with influential community leaders in the next few months.

Director Loretta Burkey said it was a good meeting but thought discussion should be more directed towards what people thought was feasible for the school district, not just what they desired since needs and wants can be different things.

Linehan said the Washington State budget, although not finalized, will not have much effect on the school district budget for 2012-2013. However, the decreasing enrollment continues to be a detriment.

The board approved to hire Rod Armbruster as 8th grade boys basketball coach, Heidi Wulczynski as assistant tennis coach, Wendy Stenbeck as high school assistant track coach, and Matt McLain as middle school assistant track coach. They also approved the resignation of paraeducator Dorothy Christensen.

The board posted open positions for three summer custodial laborers, one summer groundskeeper laborer, and three summer technology assistance laborers.

Furthermore, since the board approved the summer school plans for Gess Elementary and Jenkins Middle School, as well as the vocational summer program offered at Jenkins High School, they posted several summer school position openings. Three teachers and three paraeducators are needed for the Gess and JMS summer schools. Gess summer school also needs three high school senior assistants and a custodian. Two summer school bus drivers are needed as well.

A Chewelah Police Officer approached Linehan about allowing a certified drug dog into the schools for occasional hall patrols. The dog would check lockers for drugs, which would deter students from bringing them to school. Although the dog is controlled by an officer, Linehan said only the administration is allowed to open lockers if drugs are suspected. However, if evidence is found, then the officer has cause to take action.

JHS principal Kim Hogan said he has spoken with some parents and they agree that the hall patrols is a good idea.

Linehan said they have scheduled two additional early release days for the next school year because of teacher professional development opportunities through the consortium of school districts in the area.

Chewelah and nine other smaller districts have combined through the consortium to have a better chance for qualifying for things like grants. They first collaborated for the AP grant they received in recent years.

The two early release days, one in the spring and one in the fall, are waiver days to make it easier on the districts for teachers to attend full day consortium meetings. This allows the school to only need half day subs for those teachers.

Linehan said being part of the consortium also saves the school money because it brings training opportunities to the local area and keeps travel costs down.

Gess Principal Jerry Pugh said Gess opened kindergarten registration for two days in April and will have another day in May This allows the district to get an idea of how many students to budget for in the next school year. However, parents are allowed to register their children anytime.

By Kellie Trudeau, The Independent Staff