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Paynesville Press - April 5, 2006

School Board continues discussion on transportation issues

By Michael Jacobson

District #741 School Board The Paynesville Area School Board took the following actions at their meeting on Tuesday, March 28.

•The board heard a report from board member David Johnson about progress by the transportation committee to revise the school's transportation policy. This policy - specifically a proposal to have only one pick-up and one drop-off spot - was the subject of a public hearing in February.

Johnson said the committee has decided against a single pick-up and drop-off policy but is looking at having a primary pick-up and drop-off spot and an alternate pick-up and drop-off spot. They also want to retain flexibility in the policy in order to accommodate emergencies.

Another focus is improving communication between the school, parents, and the bus company, said Johnson. Better utilizing e-mail is one possiblity, and a cut-off time for parents to notify the school and bus company may be needed.

Superintendent Todd Burlingame also told the board that Community Education is planning to have an after-school latchkey program in place for the 2006-07 school year. This would also provide a spot for the bus company to bring young students should no one be home at their drop-off site.

•The board was informed by board member Deb Glenz, who serves on the Academic Booster Club, that three college-credit courses are planned at PAHS next year: Honors English, calculus, and economics. Two of these - calculus and econonomics - will new college-credit offerings.

•The board approved updates to five school policies, covering equal education opportunity (prohibiting discrimination of students on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, disability, sexual orientation, age, etc.); equal employment opportunity (prohibiting the discrimination of employees in the same ways); public and private data for employees; tobacco-free environment; and student disability nondiscrimination.

The school district is updating all its policies, beginning with mandated polices like these. The school district used model policies from the Minnesota School Board Assocation (MSBA) for these updates. The Equal Educational Opportunity Policy and the Equal Employment Opportunity Policy had been approved by the board in 1976. The Tobacco-Free Environment Policy had been approved in 1997. The district had the Public and Private Personnel Data Policy and the Student Disability Nondiscrimina-tion Policy on file, but they were not dated, meaning the district office was not sure if they had been approved by the board or not.

Burlingame told board members Mark Dingmann, Johnson, and Allen Schmidt - who serve on its new policy committee - that the next three policies to be reviewed involve student searches, student discipline, and bullying (which would be a new policy).

Eventually, the school district would like to have all its policies updated and together in a three-ring binder. They also would be made available to the public via the district's website.

•The board was also informed by Glenz about the district's progress in developing a wellness policy, which is a new mandate. A dozen people serve on the committee, including students, staff (teachers, food services, etc.), and public members. One difficulty, said Glenz, is that food service must buy government commodities, which do not meet wellness guidelines. Another question is what to do with the vending in the school, with some favoring eliminating candy and pop and replacing them with juice and other healthier alternatives.

Finally, the policy might recommend more physical education classes for students, possibly everyday or at least every other day.

•The board approved allowing sophomore Allie Wendroth to pursue her Gold Award for Girl Scouts by making improvements at the elementary playground. The elementary school is planning improvements to the playground, called "Chutes N' Ladders," this summer, including better drainage and new equipment.

Wendroth approached the board proposing to repaint the holdover playground equipment, to purchase and place two new signs, and to create a new, larger gate facing towards the city's Gazebo Park. (The school is negotiating with the city to participate in the playground upgrades and one of the city's requests is a better gate to the Gazebo Park.)

The projected cost for Wendroth's plan is $1,950. She plans to raise funds from local organizations and businesses and proposed asking elementary students to donate by collecting "Loose Change for Loose Paint."

•The board approved advertising for bids for a Capital Facilities Bond of $440,000. The district plans to issue this bond in order to replace seven sections of roof this summer. The bond would then be repaid over ten years through a new deferred maintenance levy, by which the district should be able to levy $59,000 per year starting in 2007-08.

Burlingame informed the board that the district had received a letter from education commissioner Alice Seagren approving this project.

•The board approved advertising for bids to purchase 75 computers for the school district's computer labs in the elementary, middle, and high school. The district is switching from Macintosh computers to PCs in all its labs. It is also using half of the $76,000 it got from Microsoft for this purchase.

•The board approved advertising for bids for asbestos removal from a tunnel at Paynesville Area Elementary School, with the bid opening set for Tuesday, April 11. Asbestos was found in the tunnel during a mock OSHA inspection, said Burlingame. Work to remove the asbestos is scheduled to start in May during non-school hours.

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