EVANSTON — The Uinta County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees had a lengthy meeting with a number of presentations and discussion items at the Feb. 4 regular meeting. Trustees Christa Barker and Russell Cox were not present for the meeting.
The first presentation was from the transportation department, given by transportation director George Dickerson. Overall, Dickerson said he is pleased with the present situation in the transportation department. He said the district will be acquiring one new school bus using DERA (Diesel Emissions Reduction Act) funds and noted that any new buses purchased from this point forward will be equipped with lap and shoulder seatbelts and new camera systems that include far more angles and areas of the bus so virtually no area is left uncovered.
Dickerson said the seatbelt change is “way overdue,” in his opinion. He also said new federal regulations have doubled the frequency of drug testing for school bus drivers. Dickerson said the district’s cost per mile has decreased and that the miles put on buses for activities and field trips have also decreased.
Next was a report from food service director Linda Martin. As of the end of January, approximately 43% of students in the district are enrolled in the free or reduced price lunch program, which is up about 2% from last year. Martin said the district serves an average of 333 breakfasts and 1,308 lunches each day. The overall food service budget is down about $45,000 from last year and the cost of food itself is down about $63,000, largely the result of joining the Western Wyoming Food Co-op and making use of inventory in the freezers.
Martin reported a big change planned for summer meals this year. Meals are scheduled to be served at Clark and North elementaries, Evanston and Davis middle schools and Horizon High School, which is the same as last year. However, the district will also be adding food trucks stationed at mobile home parks and community parks in an effort to get meals to students who live so far away from schools they’re unable to take advantage of the free meals. “We have lots of areas where kids with working parents can’t get to schools to have a decent meal,” said Martin, “and with 43% of our kids on free and reduced lunch, we have a need in our community.”
Superintendent Ryan Thomas sang the praises of the district’s food service dept., which he said is being recognized by the Wyoming Dept. of Education specifically for the summer meal programs.
Assistant Superintendent Doug Rigby introduced a presentation on a planned update of high school science curriculum, which he said had not been updated “in this century.” Science teachers Joe Floyd, Jim Burton and Trevor Guild spoke about the process of researching and selecting new curriculum, which has been ongoing for about a year and a half.
Floyd said he’s been with the district for 21 years and there have not been new science resources in that time. He stressed the need for a curriculum because currently teachers may be teaching the same material but using totally different resources, which is problematic for the work in professional learning communities and the district’s emphasis on guaranteed curriculum.
Burton said the science department has selected the Inspire program because the online platform is user friendly and has many helpful features. The program allows students to download material for access when offline, which is helpful for students who may not have Internet access at home. The program also has an integrated note-taking and highlighting feature and built-in practice questions. Not only are students able to answer the questions, but they’re also asked about their level of confidence in the answers so teachers can see how confident students are and adjust teaching accordingly.
There are also integrated lab simulations for labs that couldn’t possibly be done at school because of safety or time constraints. Teachers will also be able to embed their own resources if they do have materials they’re currently using that they would like to continue to utilize.
Rigby said the total cost of the program would be approximately $88,000 for eight years and it will be utilized by all science courses, including advanced placement courses.
Under action items, trustees voted to approve a public notice to modify Rule CKA, the district’s concealed carry rule. Thomas said it has been suggested the district needs to identify instructor requirements for the mandatory firearms training courses staff must take in order to seek approval to carry a concealed firearm.
The district intends to modify Rule CKA to include those specific instructor qualification requirements and plans to follow the Wyoming Administrative Procedures Act (WAPA) to do so by announcing the intention to change the rule and holding a public hearing on the planned change. The hearing is scheduled for April 7 and a public comment period to submit written comments is open until March 30.
District legal counsel Geoff Phillips emphasized the public hearing and comment period are to be focused only on the proposed change and not on Rule CKA itself. Thomas said he has reached out to firearms training companies and to the NRA to find out what instructor qualifications are and incorporate them specifically into the Rule.
During school reports, Evanston High School Principal Merle Lester, along with the principals of Horizon High School, Davis Middle School and Evanston Middle Schools and EHS assistant principal Scott Kohler, spoke to the board about efforts to bring a social and emotional well-being and anti-bullying program to the 6-12 schools. Lester said the decision has been made to bring the Rachel’s Challenge to Evanston schools later this month.
After looking into multiple programs, Lester said the school’s counselors had decided to go with Rachel’s Challenge both because of the program components, including a focus on kindness, and because of the reduced costs to the district as an anonymous Wyoming benefactor has agreed to pay half the costs for every school in the state.
Rachel’s Challenge, named and modeled after Rachel Scott, a victim of the Columbine attacks in 1999, is designed to start a chain reaction of kindness among students. The program will be in both high schools on Tuesday, Feb. 25, and in both middle schools on Wednesday, Feb. 26. In addition, an evening presentation at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 26, at EHS will be open and free to community members and parents.
Lester said they would like to see the entire EHS auditorium, with seating for 1,300, full for the event. He said there will also be an opportunity for about 100 students to receive more intensive training on how to implement kindness clubs at the schools, and said the plan is to find a way to keep the program going beyond this year by training students and making the program a core component of other programs and activities.
Finally, trustees asked Thomas to begin compiling information about possibly constructing an auxiliary gym/facility for the district. Trustee Dave Bennett said it’s something that has been talked about for years and he would like to stop simply talking about and move on to doing something.
Bennett said there are numerous sports and activities that could benefit from an auxiliary gym, including indoor track, soccer, cheerleading, dance, marching band and more, which often have nowhere to practice or must compete for practice time in limited gym space. Trustees would like to begin putting together numbers to look to possibly taking the issue to the public and pursuing a bond for construction.