Journal-Advocate (Sterling)

District responds on gym space issue

Pledges to work with city on facility usage for rec programs

- By Callie Jones cjones@ prairiemou­

RE-1 Valley School District wants to continue building a strong relationsh­ip with the City of Sterling Parks, Library and Recreation Department. That was the message Interim Superinten­dent Dr. Martin Foster had at a school board meeting Monday after the city last month expressed some concern with communicat­ion regarding the use of gym space.

At a PLR Board meeting last month, the board reviewed the intergover­nmental agreement between the city and district regarding facility use, and Recreation Superinten­dent Monty Waite and PLR Director Wade Gandee spoke about their difficulty finding enough gym space to use for the city’s recreation­al basketball league. There were issues with elementary gyms not being available as late into the evening as they were previously and the city wishing it had been informed in a timelier manner that certain gym space was no longer available because it was being used by another entity.

Dr. Foster told the board Monday that he talked to Recreation Superinten­dent Monty Waite regarding the concerns and was given a copy of the IGA, which he called “very useable, very understand­able.” While the agreement, which goes back to 2000, worked for a number of years, a lot of things happened recently, including COVID-19, which turned the world upside down and left the district trying to figure out what is and isn’t safe and when things started returning to normal they had to decide what facilities could still be used.

“I think a lot of the issues that started coming up were, well do we have people that we can go and lock up when things are done? Do we have situations where are we making the best use of this, are there certain nights where there are other programs going on? Those kinds of things started coming into play,” Dr. Foster said.

Bottom line, the message he really wanted to relay to the city and the recreation division is “we

really want to work with you and we’re going to do everything that we can to make our facilities available for you.”

Dr. Foster told Waite that the city is welcome to use the gym at Hagen Administra­tion Center/early Education Center. It wasn’t available in the past because it had been used as a storage area for the last couple of years, but there aren’t many items left in it now and those can be removed. Waite was excited about using that space.

The issue of having someone available, preferably a RE-1 employee, to lock up the gyms after the city is done using them was also addressed.

Sterling Middle School is used by the city for games and SHS Principal Bob Hall said they have a great working relationsh­ip, but he pointed out that getting the gym and auditorium ready for games and different events is a lot of work for custodians. In one week alone SMS had a school basketball game followed by a city league adult volleyball game in the gym on Monday night, the same thing Tuesday night, a school concert in the auditorium Thursday, an Ignite Athletics cheer competitio­n in the gym on Saturday and a community Thanksgivi­ng worship service in the auditorium on Sunday.

One of the advantages SMS has it employs a night custodian, whereas elementary schools do not. But Hall did point out the weekend activities do get difficult on the custodians, especially the five weeks from midnovembe­r through Christmas, when they have to set up and take down repeatedly.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have great custodians who don’t complain when they have to do a lot of extra things over the next few weeks to make this building available,” he told the board.

Dr. Foster planned to talk to the elementary principals at an administra­tion meeting on Tuesday to get a game plan together. As far as the gym at Hagen, one custodian at that site is done at 5:30 p.m., so as long the city gets there before that the gym can be left open for them to use and then when they’re finished, the custodian can come back over and lock everything up.

“We may have to look at situations like that at Ayres and Campbell as well and find somebody that can do that. But, strong message to our town, our community — we want to work with you, these are community schools, we want that partnershi­p to grow even stronger and move forward with it and we will do everything can to make this work,” he said.

In other business, the board had its first reading of policy regulation IKF-R, graduation requiremen­ts, and was asked to repeal policies IKF-2-E, JK-R Attachment A, discipline ladder, and JK-R Attachment B, discipline matrix.

Regulation IKF-R is related to the graduation policies that were recently updated by the board. IKF-2-E was approved for on second reading by the board on Nov. 17, 2020, but did not include any history. In researchin­g graduation policies, IKF-R was discovered and it was found that these two policies are essentiall­y the same and have been combined.

IKF-R includes informatio­n approved as IKF-2-E and recent updates as discussed with school administra­tion.

The JK-R attachment­s were recommende­d for appeal because they are no longer used by the school administra­tion and all building principals are in favor of repealing them.

Dr. Foster also gave an enrollment update. As of Nov. 21, RE-1 had 1,968 students and while that is down from the May count of 2,023, it is up three from the Oct. 1 count showing that enrollment has remained stable since the official count day.

Additional­ly, he spoke about the process for determinin­g whether or not a snow day will be called. If a storm is coming he will watch the weather very closely and be in contact with Mike Manuello, the district’s director of transporta­tion and maintenanc­e, calling him between 5 and 5:30 a.m. to get a report from him about what residents in the outlying areas of the district are saying it looks like at their location.

“We’ll get some ideas about what it looks like in the country, about trying to take a bus out or not take a bus out,” Dr. Foster said.

If school does need to be canceled, the district will try to make a decision by 6 a.m. and alert parents and students via emails, texts and various media outlets.

Under action items the board

• Approved the purchase and implementa­tion of the RAPTOR Visitor Management System for all schools, at a cost of $12,436 the first year and $3,750 every year thereafter;

• Approved a resolution to opt-out of the Paid Family Medical Leave Insurance Act’s Program with the understand­ing that employees can still independen­tly enroll if they so choose. The decision was made based on the cost to the district, $100,000 the first year and increasing after that, as well as an employee survey that found that 62 out of 68 respondent­s were in favor of opting out; and

• Approved personnel changes including the resignatio­ns of Stephanie Becker, Campbell para, who was rehired as a district substitute, and Jessica Smillie, district payroll accountant; new hires Aria Abdulla, Ayres para, Rena Polly, Caliche Elementary para, Payton Swedlund, Campbell fifth grade teacher and Marc Taylor, district substitute; and the transfer of Angela Pennock, SMS para.

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