State grant will help fund preschool program for four-year-olds in BP

by jmagdefrau on June 20, 2010

By JUDY SCHLESSELMAN

Star Press Union reporter

Belle Plaine Community Schools has been awarded a state preschool grant that could mean tuition-free preschool for four-year olds, the Belle Plaine Board of Education learned June 16.

Superintendent Bill Lynch said the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program grant for $88,245 is based on a projected enrollment this fall of 25 four-year-olds.

“Hopefully this money will pay so four-year-old parents won’t have to pay,” Lynch said. Last year’s fee was $70 per month.

Attempts by the district to land the grant in each of the last two years were unsuccessful. Belle Plaine is among 326 districts statewide to receive the grant for the upcoming school year.

The grant requires staff to attend three training sessions, which have begun, Lynch said. Grant provisions also require the district to meet state program assurances.

Director Mike Bachelder asked if the grant would be available in subsequent years. Lynch said once a district receives the grant, continued funding has been the norm. He anticipates the practice will continue.

Expenditures

Director Jim Pierce reviews the monthly bills for board approval and said he is concerned about the number of fund-raising events the school sponsors and how that money is spent. He gave the example of a $1,000 expense for a junior high trip to Planet X as a reward for taking the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. He also cited expenses related to student and staff attendance at state athletic tournaments.

“I think that’s certainly something that can be limited and talked about,” Lynch said about fundraising activities and expenditures.

Pierce is also concerned that purchase orders are sometimes submitted without adequate information. Lynch said progress is being made to improve the process.

Pierce questioned a repair bill of $1,500 for an older school van that may be worth only $500.

Lynch explained, “One of the issues we sometimes face is with certain vehicles we need right away, like for special education or driver education. Sometimes we must make a decision based on whether to repair that vehicle if you need it right away, or if you need anything ordered and replaced.”

Sound purchase order and activity fund policies are in place but need better oversight, Pierce recommended.

At the suggestion of Director Marie Stratford, Lynch said the board would review the purchase order policy at its July meeting.

2010-2011 fees

The board approved the following student fees for the upcoming school year. Registration: elementary $34.50, secondary $47.50; four-year-old preschool, no recommendation due to the state preschool grant; three-year-old preschool, $70/month; activity tickets, elementary $25, secondary $35; locker room and towel (secondary only) $20; breakfast for all grades, $1.15; elementary lunch, $1.90, secondary lunch, $2.

Lynch’s recommendation of a 10-cent-per-meal increase over last year’s fee is expected to bring approximately $5,900 into the nutrition fund that currently shows a $20,000 deficit.

Adults will also pay more for school meals after the board voted a $1 increase for breakfast and lunch. Pierce suggested an increase, saying he thought the adult fees were too low. Adult breakfast will be $2.20 and lunch $3.45 when classes begin in August.

Personnel

The board accepted Dennis Kurriger’s resignation as an assistant football coach. In his letter to the board, Kurriger said he has participated in sports for over 50 years and the time has come to let someone else get involved. “I have enjoyed working with all the players and other coaches during the time I have been involved in football at Belle Plaine. Thank you for the opportunity and the support throughout the years,” he wrote.

Sunnie Densmore was hired as the district’s summer school teacher for certain first through third graders. The four-week program began June 21. According to principal Dennis Phelps, the district identified and invited between 30 and 40 students who could benefit from the program. Seven were enrolled as of last Wednesday.

Director Marie Stratford said some school districts have moved toward mandatory summer school to improve the academic achievement of challenged students.  She suggested the board later this year consider developing such a program in Belle Plaine.

“We’re a factory with no quality control, and that would give us some quality control,” Stratford said.

Facilities

Before a tour of the construction project, the board approved a $2,561 change order for roof support columns at the high school. Recommended by the structural engineer, the change order will come from the remaining construction allowance.

Architect John Darveau presented a revised design for the storage room addition at the high school.  He was to provide an itemized cost estimate for the 30-by-33 foot structure by the end of last week.

Lynch reported he is considering several options for the Iowa Communications Network (ICN) hookup at the high school, including a fiber-optic line available through Coon Creek Telecommunications. Lynch has also talked with ICN and Kirkwood about development of a telecommunications classroom.

The board went into closed session to discuss the possible purchase of property.

Other business

In other business, the board:

– approved the following insurance providers for the 2010-2011 year: property, casualty and liability, EMC Insurance through the Drahn Insurance Agency; health, Wellmark through the Iowa Educator’s Group Insurance Trust; disability and life, Lincoln Financial Group through Mercer.

– accepted a $550 bid from Max Leonard for the district’s 1991 Ford pickup. Leonard also bid $75 for the school’s 1993 Ford Aerostar van. The board will accept Leonard’s bid if the van cannot bring more as salvage.

– approved a number of Series 700 school district policies. Other policies will be revisited at future meetings.

The next school board meeting is set for Wednesday, July 21, at 6:30 p.m. in the boardroom at Longfellow Elementary. Due to remodeling, administrative offices are temporarily located in the new addition. Access is through the door on the building’s east side.

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