Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 21, 2017

Van Buren talks new playground equipment

By Rusty Ebert, Ledger correspondent | Apr 27, 2017

KEOSAUQUA – The Van Buren school board discussed transportation issues, school calendar and possibly getting new playground equipment at the elementary during the April 19 board meeting.

Three elementary teachers discussed beginning the process of acquiring new playground equipment.

Katie Plowman said the current playground at the elementary is 24 years old. She said she realizes it takes time and money to make a replacement project a reality, but she wanted “to put it on your radar screen. It’s a couple of years’ goal and it will take a lot of work.” The group presented information on new playground equipment.

• The board held a public hearing on a proposed school calendar. After hearing displeasure from teachers, the board decided to table the matter until May. A committee of the two principals and staff will try to come up with a resolution. At issue is the length of spring break, which was five days in March 2018 in the proposed calendar.

Superintendent of schools Pam Ewell said there is a wide variety of ideas about spring break among the staff. Some want the whole week and some would rather see it spread out.

“There are strong feelings both ways,” Ewell said.

Board member Jayne Wells said, “I had parents tell me there’s not a lot of families who have the money to go on a week-long spring break. But what they want is a couple of days around Easter to go to see family, maybe having Friday and Monday off, things like that.”

Ewell added that it is hard to make the calendar so it meets state mandate regulation on the amount of time a student must be in school and also make sure it includes compensation time.

The school board will hold a public hearing for the 2017-18 school calendar on May 17.

• The board discussed transportation issues and heard different thoughts on how to deal with the number of bus routes the district has and possibly reducing them.

Any plan must meet guidelines on maximum ride trip for students. Van Buren has the second highest transportation cost of any district in the state. About 14 percent of the school’s budget goes for transportation, compared to the state average of 4.8 percent.

Board secretary Pam Morrissey gave one example of how the routes could look, by plugging addresses into mapquest. One idea is having two “hubs” to bring students. Transportation director Steve Duke said he has been looking at putting the routes into “zones.” No action was taken. Duke also talked about a shortage of substitute drivers.

• Teachers present at the school board meeting also voiced their displeasure of having Little League and T-ball games while school is in session.

“Teachers have issues with playing ball during the school year,” said Heather Coffman. She added that some of the games begin at 7:30 p.m. and kids play several times in one week, making them too tired to learn the day after.

• The board approved Waste Management’s bid for solid waste and recycling, with an escalator clause.

• The board discussed mowing bids. Board approved low bid from Kyle Osborne.

• Doug Hamann discussed issues in the construction project and also deferred maintenance items. Hamann cited issues with windows and that they are having the contractor come to look at it. Other problems include some of the lockers, a door and plumbing in the FCS room.

• Ewell discussed with the board the changes in the collective bargaining law in the state. For the first time in 40 years, the state legislature made a number of changes to the law.

Among other things, the law dramatically reduces the number of bargaining items, sets a limit on salary increases an arbitrator can set and makes each local unit certify every year.

The debate was contentious in the state legislature and was strongly opposed by unions, including those representing certified teachers.

Ewell said she attended a round table with other administrators and much of the discussion was on the pros and cons of multi-year contracts and the list of items which are “permitted” to be negotiated under the new law.

The board is currently in negotiations for the new contract.

• Heather Coffman, elementary teacher, spoke against a change in mascots, colors and school name if the district is reorganized.

Coffman said she graduated from Harmony in 1993.

“Right now, we are known as Van Buren Community. As third graders we talk about what a community is in the classroom, community is a group of people who come together and work cooperatively.

“We have to think is it really going to matter for our kids down the road, is it going to make them a better citizen of our community.”

“Is it going to make them more independent, more capable, if it’s a name change, a color change, a mascot change. We want our kids to thrive, be college and career ready. I don’t think these changes are going to get them there.”

• The board hired Unity Daughtery, preschool special education associate, and Lisa Denney, alternative instruction. The board accepted the following resignations: Erin Bass, kindergarten, Lacey Kirchner, rhythm and dance instructor, and Terry Hostetler, long-term sub bus driver.

• Open enrollment requests were approved: Nicole Ruby from Cardinal to Van Buren; Kaylee Westercamp, from Van Buren to Central Lee.

• The following volunteers were approved: Brad Davison, softball, pending licensure, James Sprinkle, softball, pending licensure, Nate Manning, baseball, Shane Begley, baseball and Jory Heckenberg, baseball.

• The board approved having Hawkeye Photo Booths at the after prom party with the stipulation that the photos could not be used for promotional material.

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