The Sidney School Board approved construction changes at their Feb. 15 meeting, including the addition of two small rooms at the elementary and using attached bleachers rather than free standing, at a cost of $42,259 for the rooms and savings of about $9,455 for attaching the bleachers. The board agreed to purchase acoustic panels to hang with the savings from attaching the bleachers.
The board also debated whether to add in new lighting at the elementary at a cost of $99,000, or new carpet and paint at a cost of $219,245. They were told by Ryan Quiring, Construction Manager with Boyd Jones, that they needed to make a decision on the lighting that night, but could hold off on the carpet and paint decision a little longer if needed.
Quiring said the new lighting would save the district about $3,000 per year, essentially taking 35 years to pay for itself. He noted, though, that the $99,000 cost was as cheap as it would ever be, installing the lighting now while the other construction was going on. He also cautioned that lighting systems all tend to go bad at about the same time or within a few years period, because they were usually all put in at the same time to start. He suggested if they thought they might be replacing the lighting any time within the next five years, they should probably do it now.
Quiring cautioned that the paint and carpet would add to the scope of the work to be done over the summer, and might extend the completion date. He indicated they might even have to finish some of the classrooms during the next school year, as there was a ton of HVAC work that must be done first.
Elementary Principal Shannon Wehling said she would prefer to have the paint and carpet done rather than the lighting if they were choosing one, saying there were places where the carpet was held together with duct tape.
The board made no decision on the lighting or paint and carpet at this meeting.
With the closing of the Sidney Argus-Herald, the board had to decide which local newspaper would publish their legal notices going forward. Board Secretary Janet Lemrick had contacted each of the three local papers: Hamburg Reporter, Fremont-Mills Beacon Enterprise and The Valley News, to ask questions about deadlines and publication dates.
Lemrick said the Hamburg Reporter could not publish within the required 10 days as required by law. The Beacon Enterprise would be published on the 10th day, and The Valley News, which publishes twice weekly could easily publish within the 10-day period.
Lemrick also noted that she was able to contact The Valley News and speak with them whenever she tried and had more trouble reaching the other two newspaper offices or getting calls back. The board members asked her if she had a preference regarding who she would rather work with, saying they wanted to do what was easiest for her, and Lemrick told them she thought she would prefer to go with The Valley News.
Board member Justin Travis said he felt committed to using the Hamburg Reporter as it was in Fremont County, but Lemrick reminded him that paper couldn’t meet the school district’s publication requirements. Travis acknowledged that issue, and said he just wanted to be sure the public understood that, as he had already been asked by several citizens who the school would use.
Lemrick said she had also contacted Angie Ettleman at Penn Drug to see if there had been coffee talk about what should happen, and had been told people were suggesting the Hamburg Reporter. Lemrick said that Ettleman did add that The Valley News had contacted her, though, to ask to sell their papers in Penn Drug so they would be readily accessible. The Valley News is already sold at Caseys, and had also contacted Sidney Foods for a similar permission, so they could be found in all the places the Argus-Herald had been found.
Some of the board members pointed out that The Valley News had done a good job covering school news and sports.
Based on accessibility and publication requirements, the board voted to approve The Valley News as the school district’s official publication.
The board discussed pricing on the contract for Driver’s Education and the teacher’s salary. They noted that last year they had paid the instructor $215 per student, and charged $300 full price, $250 for those who qualified for reduced-price meals, and $350 for out of district students. Board members questioned how these prices compared to other districts, but no one had the answer. It was pointed out they had just raised prices a few years ago to match the other districts’ prices. The board members approved leaving prices the same this year, and Sidney School Superintendent Tim Hood indicated he did not think the Driver’s Education instructor, Donnie Sears, would object.
Board members briefly discussed the IJAG program. Hood said they had discussed it several times and put it off a few times. He told board members no small schools (like Sidney) have the program, but he had had it at larger districts he worked at in the past and credited it with raising grades and graduation rates.
If the board approved joining the program, they would be the first small school to try it, and Hood suggested they were small enough they could include more grades in the program than larger schools could. He added that success of the program all hinged on choosing the right person to run it, and if they hired a kid magnet, it would fly.
The school board members approved signing up for the IJAG program for the 2021-2022 school year, at a cost of $20-25,000.
Board members talked about renewal of the School Resource Officer (SRO) for 2021-2022. Hood said he didn’t have a proposed contract and price yet, but he really believed it was worth keeping and hoped the board would agree. The position is currently filled by Fremont County Deputy Ashton Luke, and he would continue in that position. The board approved continuing the SRO program for the next school year.
Lemrick advised the board members there had been a communication error and a notice had been published in the final Argus-Herald saying the school district would be running a Revenue Purpose Statement, but that was incorrect, and the district would not.
In other business, the board members:
• approved removal of Jen Maher as authorized bank signature and addition of Trisha Glockel, Janet Lemrick, Matt McLaren and Alisha Ettleman;
• tabled discussion on Webster Street;
• approved the hire of Rick McIntyre as high school cook;
• was advised Hood would reach out to Hamburg School Superintendent Mike Wells to set up a joint school board meeting for the spring, and
• heard from Ettleman that she had received many positive comments about the school’s live sports coverage and commentary, even from parents from other school districts.