BLAIRSBURG - The Northeast Hamilton school board heard parents' transportation concerns when it opened the floor to visitors at its October meeting on Tuesday night.
NEH bus routes were changed this year to accommodate the partial day sharing with Webster City.In order for high school students to arrive on time for Webster City High School classes, the buses must leave Blairsburg by 7:50 a.m. So in order to make that departure deadline, some buses pick up students as early as 6:50 a.m.
Four parents addressed the board and asked it to revisit bus boarding times.
"My concern is for the younger kids trying to get enough sleep," said one parent. She asked if the district would consider altering the routes, reversing the route in the afternoons or running another bus.
Superintendent Patrick Hocking noted that last year the board decided to cut the four routes down to three in order to save money. He estimated that is would cost the district approximately $100 per day to add another bus route.
"Some issues have been brought to my attention," said Hocking.
Hocking explained that Iowa law stipulates that no child is allowed to spend more than one hour on the bus. In order to comply with the law, the district sends busses out to the far end of the route and picks up children as it comes back to the school. With that process, the first students to board the bus are riding for only the allotted hour.
He said that it would impossible to reverse the order of the route because travelling to the far end with all the students before starting to drop them off would result in many riders being on the bus for more than the state's time limit.
Board members asked Hocking to research options which will be discussed at the November meeting.
In other business, the board voted to repay a loan balance of $8,000 for the Hot Lunch Program which was taken from the PPEL fund in FY2011-2012 with funds from the General Fund. The original loan from the PPEL fund was $17,000 and $9,000 had been repaid in FY 2011-2012.
Hocking reported that due to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the NEH lunch program is more expensive for the district to run. Schools are required to stay within new nutritional guidelines which promotes more fresh foods that are more expensive for schools to purchase.
Hocking reported that he and the lunch program cooks have been brainstorming about how to raise supplemental funds to support the NEH program. He told the board he would research the legalities of conducting holiday cookie sales in an effort to raise money.
Asked about the legality of using government commodities for a fundraising effort, Hocking reported that all fundraising proceeds would have to be deposited back into the lunch program account.
Another option Hocking suggested to the Board was to consider outsourcing meal preparation. Board members asked Supt. Hocking to research how other districts are dealing with lunch program issues and report those findings at the November meeting.
Enrollment remains steady at NEH, said Hocking. The Certified Enrollment Totals are reported to the state on Oct. 15 and Hocking told the board that although NEH's enrollment is down 20 students from last year, the district expects to have certified enrollment figures near last year's 228 students in PreK through12.
NEH High School Principal Dennis Bahr, Hocking and board members Kim Schaa and Roxanne Anderson were appointed as members of the board negotiating team.
In contractual business, the board approved Kacey Pruismann for varsity girls track coach and John Seiser for junior high football coach. The board voted an increased pay grade to Jenny Pruismann, Josh Vandedrloop and Leslie Keehn for advanced degrees earned.
In other action agenda items, the board approved the Certified Annual Report and the SIAC goals for the 2012-13 school year.
In consent agenda items, the board approved the Modified Allowable Growth applications for budget guarantee, open enrollment, special education deficit, transportation and on-time funding. By doing so, the board insured that the district's unspent authority would remain as high as allowable in order to cover expenditures without using the cash levy reserve.
The board also approved the early bird and post-secondary enrollment which includes all NEH students currently taking college level courses in 2012-2013.
The board also approved an increase of technical support services with Prairie Lakes AEA beyond the three hours currently under contract.
In school board information, Hocking and NEH Business Manager Susie Fiscus will attend the finance conference of the ISIFS. On Oct. 22, board President Kim Schaa and Hocking will attend the first joint meeting of the NEH, Stratford and Webster City school districts. The three schools are scheduled to meet three times annually.
Also in board information, Hocking and Roxanne Anderson will attend the Iowa School Board Association delegate assembly meeting on Nov. 14.
Hocking notified the board that Cedar Falls Lutheran Valley has requested to be allowed to join the Iowa Star Conference.Any changes to the ISC schedule of activities would take place next year, said Hocking.
Hocking recommended that the board approve snow removal on a case-by-case basis rather than on an hourly scale. The measure passed unanimously.
Bahr reported on the results of the regional Professional Development Day he attended with Hocking on Oct. 8. Future statewide assessment tests, to be called Smarter Balance, will be computer generated beginning in 2014, Bahr reported.
"This is a huge change," he said. The new testing will push students to develop rational answers to questions rather than simple A, B, C or D answers as currently required in the Iowa Basic Skills Tests. Barr also noted that the testing will challenge students on new grade level knowledge requirements.
"Kids are going to have to learn a lot sooner and at a higher level," he noted.
Webster City FFA instructor Kurt Veldhuizen gave a Power Point presentation of the program which has 14 NEH students among the 127 enrolled in classes. Veldhuizen reported FFA program class offerings include intro to agriculture I and II, vet science, plant science, greenhouse production, landscaping, intro to ag business, and ag leadership.
"These classes are technology based," said Veldhuizen, whose personal goal is help students graduate "with a bank of experiences."
In 2012, the Webster City FFA received the Two Star National Chapter Award, according to Veldhuizen.
"This year's goal is to earn the Three Star," said Veldhuizen of the highest rank.
In order to finance activities, trips and events, the WC FFA sponsors fruit sales, contests and plant sales.
Although the WC FFA is comprised of students from Badger, Blairsburg, Duncombe, Eagle Grove, Fort Dodge, Kamrar, Lehigh, Stratford, Vincent, Webster City, Williams and Woolstock, the students are a cohesive group.
"We are one," stated Veldhuizen. "We all work together".