EVANSTON — Presentations from district departments dominated much of the evening at the Uinta County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, March 5. The special education and activities departments both presented annual reports.
Other business included an update on the process of adopting a rule to allow for concealed carry of firearms by district staff, a discussion and vote on the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school calendars, a discussion about winter travel procedures, a brief presentation of the new flag design for Evanston High School and approval of administrator contracts for the next school year.
Activities director Bubba O’Neill presented the activities report and focused on the areas of music and soccer. O’Neill said the middle school and high school instrumental music programs have not gotten new instruments in 19 years. While many students rent instruments from outside providers to participate in instrumental music, there are also programs for families with limited income to get instruments from the schools for free or reduced costs. In addition, there are some larger instruments, such as tubas and baritone saxophones, that are cost prohibitive for students to rent.
Music teachers Kevin Blackwell, Alan Dancer and Richard Garcia have worked together to come up with a list of instrument needs that come to a cost of about $115,000. O’Neill said he would like the district to consider using reserves for a one-time purchase of these needed instruments. Blackwell said it is getting to the point where maintaining the old instruments is actually costing the district more than simply buying new ones because the maintenance costs are more than the instruments are worth.
Turning to soccer, O’Neill said the district has had a soccer program now for 20 years and have “piecemealed” the program together using fields wherever available.
“We don’t have appropriate facilities for soccer,” said O’Neill. “I believe we may be the only city in the entire country our size that doesn’t have a soccer-dedicated facility. We have JV and varsity soccer programs in place and it’s our responsibility to provide them with that facility and give them that chance.”
O’Neill said even when the ice and snow begins to thaw there is no adequate place for the soccer teams to practice. Additionally, he said, a soccer-dedicated facility would allow Evanston to host tournaments and bring people into the community and possibly also provide a place to host youth soccer for the community.
“The youth soccer situation up at Aspen is dangerous,” he said.
Brent Sanders of Cook-Sanders Associates said he’s done preliminary work in researching the possibility of building a soccer facility on 24 acres of district property behind the bus barn. Sanders presented the board with designs for a four-field soccer complex, complete with a large parking lot, restrooms, locker rooms, seating, concessions, a center scoreboard, landscaping and a walkway around the entire area.
While there was no disagreement expressed by board members about the need for soccer facilities, there was concern about costs. The plans presented by Sanders would come at a price tag of approximately $3 million, with about half of that for the four fields themselves.
Board chair Jami Brackin said, “We don’t have one and have never had one and it’s unbelievable that we don’t. I’d like to look at a phasing plan.”
Sanders said he could work up some plans to do the construction in phases. Trustee Jenny Welling pointed out that having it all completed could be beneficial.
“Having four fields would allow for rotation of practice and game fields,” Welling said, “and building four fields at once would be a long-term savings in terms of maintenance and extra costs later.”
Trustee Kay Fackrell asked about seeking a bond for construction. Superintendent Ryan Thomas said a bond was one of two possible options, with the other being to build in phases using reserves. Thomas said he liked the idea of seeking a bond and said it had been a very long time since the district had pursued bond funding.
O’Neill said, “The reason I came to you is that we’ve talked and talked about this in the community and it never goes anywhere. You guys are the ones who can help get it somewhere.”
Brackin said, “I’d love to see it built. We just need to find a way to do it.”
In the special education report, director Matt Williams said there are currently 394 active special education students, which is 14.5 percent of students enrolled in the district. Williams said the district is meeting or exceeding targets in a number of areas, including ensuring most students are in the least-restrictive environment of a regular classroom the majority of the school day.
The district has 135 staff members who work with special education students in some way, including certified and support staff, social workers, language pathologists, occupational therapists and more. The district also has contracts for physical therapists, visual impairment services and more that can be used when needed.
Thomas provided an update on the rule CKA adoption process, which would allow for approved staff to carry concealed firearms on district property. Thomas said parts of the rule have been reviewed since the public comment period and hearings earlier this year.
Thomas said the requirement that an employee agree to participate in the program for at least 12 months if approved to conceal carry has been removed because the district does not want to force anyone to participate if they are no longer comfortable doing so.
The district also reviewed portions of the rule dealing with use of force to make sure it aligns to the same standards as those used for law enforcement personnel in detailing when it is permissible for an employee to discharge a weapon.
School district attorney Geoff Phillips said under the rulemaking process the board will vote on everything all at once, including responses to all public comments received and all parts of the rule itself. Unlike other policies adopted by the board that require a first and second reading, a rule at the end of the rulemaking process requires only one vote.
The vote on CKA is currently scheduled for the April 9 board meeting.
The board discussed and voted on the calendar for the 2019-20 school year and the draft calendar for the 2020-21 school year. The calendar for the next school year is virtually identical to the current calendar. There are no professional development days included as yet, said Thomas. “We promised we would give community and staff the opportunity to weigh in on delayed-start Mondays and we will do that.”
Thomas, the board, O’Neill and transportation director George Dickerson discussed procedures for determining if buses will take students on out-of-town trips when there are concerns about weather and road closures. There was a situation during this school year when the interstate was closed all the way across the state; however, the poor weather was on the other side of the state and the roads closer to home were closed due to local authority request to manage backed-up traffic and local traffic was being allowed. The question was raised as to whether the district needs to have a specific written policy about traveling when the roads are closed.
Dickerson said when the roads are closed in those situations, he and O’Neill speak to the Wyoming Highway Patrol and WYDOT to determine if it’s okay to travel to nearby venues for activities. Thomas said the safety of students is always the number one consideration. The board agreed it was preferable to continue to let district administrators have discretion in making those decisions after consultation with WHP and WYDOT.
Evanston High School Principal Merle Lester and student Kai Haukaas spoke to the board about a new school flag that had been designed this year. Lester said the old school flag was designed in the 1930s, and Haukaas said, “I don’t think the old flag represents the 21st-century Evanston High School.” A competition was held to design a new flag and the student council voted on submissions. The new flag will have the EHS seal and use the school colors on a white background.
Finally, the board voted to approve the contract renewals for all administrators for the next school year.