School district looks forward to growth
Even though Tonganoxie school district faces what appears to be a continuing decline in enrollment, school board members are keeping an eye on the district's possible long-term needs.
At Monday night's board meeting, Superintendent Richard Erickson presented a rough draft of future building opportunities. These plans could call for the construction of a new high school, renovation of existing buildings and construction of a middle school for students in fifth through eighth grades.
"I realize we're in a declining enrollment now," Erickson said. "But what concerns me is what will happen in the next eight to ten years when the houses go up."
Erickson also asked the board to consider what the school planned to do with 80 acres of vacant school-owned land near the intersection of Evans Road and Pleasant Street. Currently, the property is used for cross-country meets.
Board members discussed possible plans and suggested looking at the nearby DeSoto school district in which population growth has demanded extensive building of new classrooms.
Board president Bob Gepner brought up the issue of Tonganoxie High School's outside buildings that are used for various classrooms and noted that security could be an issue in the future.
"There's no way that you can ever make that building safe," Gepner said.
For now, Erickson said, there can be no immediate plan for building until enrollment increases.
"For the time being, it's a moot issue," Erickson said. "I just wanted you to be aware that this may be something we'll have to face in the future."
In other matters, Erickson said the school district would be looking more closely at its special education budget.
Currently, the district's special education services are contracted through Leavenworth County Special Education Cooperative. Erickson praised the quality of the service, but said that students have to endure lengthy bus rides and that the district could save money by running its own special education service.
Accountant Jim Long, of the Bogner and Long accounting firm, Lawrence, presented the auditor's report. He noted temporary negative cash balances in the school's activity fund.
"This is a violation of Kansas law, so try to avoid them if at all possible," Long said.
He suggested the use of creative transfers, such as a transfer of funds from the student council account, to temporarily cover the funds at the end of a month.
Long said that audits of subsequent months showed no further violations in the activity fund, and added, "I think that problem's been licked."
Other than that, Long said, no problems or exceptions were noted.
"Everything shows that there's been good fiscal management of the district's funds," Long said.
Board members discussed the implementation of a "Jump Start Academy," a three-week summer course for pre-kindergarten students to help them prepare for kindergarten.
"This is one way that we can help our preschool kids get off to a running start," Erickson said.
Jerry Daskoski, Tonganoxie Elementary School principal, said the district already does a preschool screening to help parents know what skills should be learned before a child starts school.
"We've always given recommendations to the parents," Daskoski said, "But we haven't had a hands-on approach."
The course would be offered at $15 a week, and Erickson said the district would try to help families that couldn't afford the $45 cost. Attendance would not be mandatory. The cost to run the academy, Erickson said, is estimated at $2,000 to $3,000.
Erickson described the Jump Start Academy as an "outreach."
"It's a letter to our patrons in the district saying, 'Hey, we want your child,'" Erickson said.
Along this line, board members looked at recommended kindergarten admission standards.
"We want to connect with parents of three- and-four-year-olds so that when these students start school they will have these skills," Erickson said. "I want to see them hit the ground running. We don't want to have to remediate for three or four months."
The board approved the district's update on the policy for student expulsions and suspensions. The revised policy is more specific in regard to long-term and short-term suspensions, as well as weapons, Erickson.
Following an executive session, the board:
Hired Alison Waters as bus driver.
Hired Carolyn Day as accompanist for the vocal music program at the high school.
Added David Crook as an assistant coach for the junior high boys basketball team.
Approved the hiring of these assistant coaches for wrestling: Scott Underwood, Gene Samuels, Dan Fire. These assistant coaches are hired for $1 in order for them to be covered under the district's insurance, Erickson said.