The USD 503 Board of Education heard Monday that Parsons Middle School will be closed most of the summer.
Superintendent Lori Ray said companies will start staging equipment, including a large crane, for the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system (HVAC) and roofing projects on May 19 in the north parking lot. Staff will use the west parking lot.
May 22 will be the last day for staff to be inside Parsons Middle School. After May 23, no one will have access to either of the middle school parking lots or the building for safety and liability purposes. The road on the west side of the middle school will also be closed temporarily.
Maintenance and technology will be moving middle school staff to the D wing at Parsons High School, the newer wing built onto the east side where high school science and social studies classes are normally held.
If someone needs to reach someone at the middle school, they will still call the middle school phone number and the call will be rerouted.
All middle school summer school classes will also be in the D wing at PHS. It has its own entrance and exit so middle school kids won’t be anywhere else in the rest of the high school.
USD 503 Maintenance Director Tim Bowman said if everything goes well, the roofer should be done by June 27. Once the HVAC units are placed, they estimate within two or three weeks they will have the systems connected, tested and ready to go.
Ray said if for some reason the projects are not completed the plan is to push back the start date of school one week, but it looks like the projects will be done by the mid-July.
Bowman said if it is over a 30% chance of rain, the roofers have to be careful about taking off sections of roof.
Ray said the projects are both being funded by Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III funds, with the exception of the 10% bond the school has to cover out of its capital outlay fund.
The board approved participation in the community eligibility provision.
The CEP for the national school lunch program provides an alternative to household applications for free and reduced-priced meals, which families normally fill out at the beginning of the year to see if they qualify.
Through CEP, districts can agree to serve all students free lunches and breakfasts for four successive school years, and then the district claims back funding based on the number of identified students who would qualify.
“The way it works is you have to have between 30 and 39% of your students be eligible based on the (federal formula). For us, our total district was almost 60% eligible,” Ray said. Garfield was at 61%, Guthridge was at 60%. Lincoln was at 64%. Parsons Middle School was at 62% and Parsons High School was at almost 50%.
“So we easily qualified for the community eligibility provision, which is also known as universal free meals. It’s available to schools who meet the guidelines. We meet the guidelines. It means we would have free breakfast and free lunch for all students for four consecutive years.”
Ray said the district would look at its eligible percentages every year to determine how reimbursements would change. With 60% of students eligible, Ray said the district would qualify for about 96% reimbursement.
“The caveat is we’re going to need families to fill out the household economic surveys because we receive other federal at-risk funding based on those free and reduced lunch numbers, so a lot of places are hesitant to go to this universal free meals, because without that free and reduced lunch application, it may make it harder to receive other monies.
“But I feel like our families will fill out that household economic survey. It isn’t very long. A new one will come out in July. Fill it out and then we can receive other at-risk funding so that everyone is eligible for a free meal in USD 503,” Ray said. Online enrollment opens in mid-July.
Ray said the survey will be a part of online enrollment. If someone already receives SNAP or other food benefits, then that means they are “direct certified.” There will be a line in the enrollment form that asks if the family is “direct cert.” If they click yes then they can move on with enrollment. If they click no, they will have to fill out the household economic survey. It asks the number of people who live in the house and how much money you make in a year. Barb McClelland is the verification clerk.
Assistant Superintendent Jeff Pegues said it could even potentially help enrollment numbers to know all students will get free lunches and breakfasts.
Kudos to teachers
Following a report from administrators, board member Lou Martino commended the USD 503 teachers for their work with students and said what is happening is exciting and down to earth, considering the population of students they are working with.
“The Kansas Policy Institute, which you are aware of, are trying to infiltrate school boards and teachers, because they don’t like what the teachers are doing,” Martino said. “You guys aren’t producing Rhodes scholars, what’s wrong with you? You’re not producing kids that score 36 on the ACT, what’s wrong with you?”
Martino said administrators reported how teachers are working with children far beyond academics. They are working to teach them to be kinder, more reactive to one another and more caring about each other, in addition to numerous enrichment programs that are being offered for children who struggle and teachers going above and beyond to help students.
“But you are not doing enough according to the Kansas Policy Institute, and that just infuriates me, because I challenge those people to come down and get in your shoes for a week or a day and see what it’s like, because they have things backward. It’s not all about data and numbers. It’s about when that kid comes to your room that first day of school, you want them to leave better on the last day of school. And that’s what we try to do.”
“Kudos,” he told the teachers, for jobs well done in academic growth, personal growth, social-emotional growth and more.
“That’s another thing the Kansas Policy Institute doesn’t understand is we are creating relationships with all of our community,” Martino said.
“It takes everybody,” Ray said.
IN OTHER BUSINESS, the board:
— Heard the last student day is Thursday. Students get out at noon.
— Summer school for elementary and middle school students will run June 5-29, Monday through Thursdays, in the mornings. Meals will be provided through Labette Health. The high school summer school will operate June 5 through July 27. They will have morning and afternoon sessions. Juneteenth will be the only day there is no summer school for all grade levels. High School will also have off the week of July 4.
— Heard a long list of PHS extra-curricular activities state winners who are moving on to nationals.
— Heard attendance is up 1% at Parsons Middle School and chronic absenteeism is down 1%. Also heard in monitoring all middle school students reaching typical academic growth and above from fall to spring, the middle school set a “wild” goal that 60% of students would meet the goal. Math came in at 54% of students and English came in at 63% of students, meeting or beating the goal. Averaging the two together, they came in just 1.5% below their goal. Principal Tyler Gordon said the strongest growth seen was in eighth grade. Leading the way were teachers Shannon Millar, who had 72% of students show typical growth or above, and Wendy Neff who showed 65% of her students met or beat the goal in math.
— Heard third grade met or exceeded goals in math this year on state assessments beating out the state average, in addition to progress in social-emotional learning and improvement in other areas. Pegues said at first glance it appears the third grade not only beat out the state average but outscored them by double digits, 11% better than the state average in math.
— Heard staffing was a major discussion at the Tri-County Special Education Board meeting. USD 503 district representative Mike Kastle reported 25% of staff are presently long-term subs rather than licensed teachers and it is getting worse. Signing bonuses were discussed. He said some districts want to do it but it has to be all or none and that may be an issue because of finances in the seven school districts. He said he is pessimistic that bonuses will be offered. He asked that everyone encourage people to enter the profession of special education should they have any interest. “We are in desperate need of quality people in those classrooms for those people who have issues,” Kastle said. The issue is being faced in all special education cooperatives across the state. Kastle said ANW cooperative had its insurance rates increased by 30%. Pegues said it is not just special education but education in general where there are shortages. He said on job boards there are about 25 new postings a day added.
Joan Thompson said maybe there needs to be a consideration for financial incentives to help people get their degree.
— Heard from Technology Director Ben McGuire about a tech plan through 2030 and what technology needs would look like replacing and updating on a rotational basis, which would level out annual costs to around $250,000 a year, rather than being outrageous one year to the next.
— Accepted a total in donations/grants to all schools of $29,006.
— Approved three additional full-time substitute positions, for a total of five for the 2023-2024 school year. The positions will be paid through ESSER III funds this coming school year. ESSER III funds will not be available for the year after that, so the board will have to revisit how many full-time sub positions it can support.
— Approved nurse-aide positions for the 2023-2024 school year using ESSER funds.
— Waived textbook fees for the 2023-24 school year.
— Approved replacement of deteriorating middle school doors, lentils and frames to allow for safety and security, including keyless entry at a cost of $57,800.
— Approved high school HVAC replacement on three sections (total of 31 units) using $431,000 in ESSER III funds toward the total cost of $479,331. The district will pay the remaining $47,000 out of capital outlay.
— Approved summer supplemental assignments.
— Approved summer school assignments paid for through ESSER funds
— Re-employed classified staff for the 2023-2024 school year.
— Hired Bridget Dunlay as middle school assistant volleyball coach for the 2023-24 season; Emmalee Handshy as the middle school math teacher, effective the 2023-24 school year; Morgan Hizey as seventh-grade language arts teacher for the 2023-24 year; and Sami Pontious as middle school head volleyball coach for the 2023-24 season; and Kyle Hutley as the middle school keyboarding/ multimedia teacher.
— Accepted the resignation of Autumn Dickens, as seventh grade math teacher; and Bailey Monte, math aide; effective the end of the 2022-23 school year.
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