The Wellington School at 10th and Wellington Sts., houses the ESU #15-sponsored alternative ed program, in which Chase County high school students have participated. However, CCS will be coordinating its own program next year. (Johnson Publications photo)

CCS taking over alternative ed program

New bus barn will be bid in early April

    It took nearly three hours to get through the agenda items at the monthly Chase County Schools (CCS) board of education meeting March 14.
    One of the topics comprising a lot of discussion was the alternative education program sponsored by ESU #15.
    That program, which now holds classes at the Wellington School in Imperial, is on its way out at CCS as an ESU-sponsored service, based on discussion at last week’s meeting.
    Instead, Supt. Joey Lefdal believes Chase County students would be better served by a program controlled locally by CCS.
    “They are doing some good things there,” Lefdal said, but added the model they use is not one he supports.    
    Lefdal told board members he talked with the ESU administrator last week, expressing he was not happy with where the program is and the dollars CCS is spending on it.
    “We want to see a program to catch kids before they fail instead of waiting four years down the road,” he said.
    Cost is also a big concern.
    Through a monthly assessment and use of special ed “flex” funding, CCS spends about $68,000 on ESU’s alternative ed program each year.
    Offsetting some of that cost for CCS is the $6,000 the ESU pays to Chase County Schools  each year for use of Wellington School classroom.
    Other schools in ESU #15 also contribute money for alternative ed, whether the school has students in the program or not.
    Currently, there are about six students from the CCS district in the program.
    High School Principal Chad Scheel said all students entering the program must go through an interview process first with ESU staff, and they don’t have to be accepted into the program. He said it can be awhile before a decision is made on a student’s acceptance.
    “Now we’ve lost five to six weeks and that student continues to fall behind,” Scheel said.
    He said some CCS students have experienced success in the alternative ed program, and being in the program is not a stigma to them. Students ESU does not accept are still the responsibility of CCS.
    Scheel said students who are in the alternative ed program now and work in the afternoons could still do that in a CCS program.
    Details on whether some students in an alternative ed program at CCS would be integrated into some classrooms is a piece Lefdal wants more board input on.
    “There are so many great things we could do with alternative ed. We have some needs that are not being addressed,” Lefdal said.
    He anticipates an alternative ed program at CCS would be combined with other intervention programs now operating at the school.
    Board member Sheila Stromberger said one of her concerns is when they originally started alternative ed, “We had kids who just did not fit into the traditional school system and we had some major behavioral problems.”
    Lefdal gave an example, saying why CCS needs to get control of this.
    He cited one CCS student in particular who was refused for the alternative ed program, and “was about two minutes from being expelled last year.”
    He now is in the superintendent’s office for four periods of each school day to do his school work, under Lefdal’s supervision. He also attends some CCS classes, Lefdal said. He’s passed nine classes in three months “and got himself back up to graduate.
    “He’s one of my most favorite kids to be around. He is cordial and he is proud of himself,” Lefdal said.
    While a “location” for alternative ed, whether it be in the school building or off campus as it is now, wasn’t determined last week, board members indicated a CCS-sponsored program should be pursued.
    Lefdal said Neal Dodge, who now teaches grade 7-8 science, will be moved to  the alternative ed program next school year as its certificated teacher.
Bid opening on new bus
barn set for April 5
    Plans are going out to prospective bidders for a new bus barn, northwest of the school building.
    The school board and its engineer, Jeff Tidyman, president of Engineering International, Inc. of McCook, have set a bid opening for Wednesday, April 5, at 11 a.m. at the school.
    Tidyman said he has prepared plans for two steel building options—one is a 70 x 96 foot structure with two bays and a second is a 70 x 110 foot building with three bays.
    In both options, Tidyman said there is also a bay for maintenance work with a lift for mechanical repairs. Both plans also have space for a mechanical room, breakroom, restroom, an office and an above-ground mezzanine for storage.
    Tidyman said board members would like to have a barn in which CCS’s three activity busses could be stored. That would require the larger building, he said, but price will be a factor, according to last week’s board meeting discussion.
    With eventual plans to sell the Wellington site, where the bus barn is now located, the board has been discussing options for more than a year. In addition to building new, they had also considered purchasing a building off site.
    A legal notice is running in this week’s issue on bid details.
    Tidyman said he’s had “quite a bit of interest” in the bidding and planned to begin sending out plans on Tuesday to those who’ve requested them so far.

Other school board business

  • Carl Zuege’s resignation as head high school boys’ basketball coach was approved after he received thanks from Supt. Joey Lefdal and A. D. Troy Hauxwell. Zuege served as Longhorn head coach for the past nine years and as an assistant another seven years. He will continue as head cross country and head boys’ track coach. Jill Bauerle also submitted her resignation the day of the meeting as one-act play coach and co-director of the spring musical, so was too late to add to the agenda, Supt. Lefdal  said. It will be on next month’s agenda. Lefdal noted they expected to receive media specialist Sonja Burpo’s resignation later last week, and her position is being advertised. A high school science teacher has also been hired to replace Larry Munger, Lefdal added, which will be on next month’s agenda, as well.
  • The 2017-18 school calendar was adopted on a unanimous vote. First day of school will be Aug. 23. Other dates of importance include: fall break Oct. 20 and 23, Christmas break for students Dec. 21 through Jan. 2 (staff inservice days on Dec. 21 and Jan. 2), winter break Feb. 16 and 19, Easter break March 30 and April 2, and graduation  May 12. Last day of K-11 classes will be May 23, 2018. CCS will host both the SPVA and district music contests in 2018 on March 5 (SPVA) and April 20 (district). No classes for students will be held either day. The 2017-18 calendar continues the 2:30 p.m. early outs each Friday.
  • A large kindergarten class is expected again for 2017-18. Elementary Principal Becky Odens said 53 kindergarten students are confirmed to start this fall, but  that number may grow to 65. Kindergarten Roundup is set for Thursday, April 20, at the school. Three classrooms for kindergarten will be scheduled next year.
  • Staffing in other areas of the school was also addressed. Due to increasing numbers in special education (SPED), Supt. Lefdal recommended an additional half-time certificated staff person in SPED. However, with some staff shifting, he said it would not increase overall staffing. For the middle school (grades 5-8), he recommended an additional math teacher be hired for grades 5-8 with possible coaching duties. Currently, there are seven full-time 5-8 teachers with one para-professional available. Next year, Lefdal said there will be 199 students in grades 5-8, and with the additional teacher, the middle school could also offer one more section of science, language arts and social studies. Board member Sheila Stromberger said she favors adding the middle school staff, adding, “We put the 5-8 in place and I’d hate to see it fail.”
  • A long list of student handbook policies was on the agenda, and board members were asked by Supt. Lefdal to review them for discussion next month. There were three examples of a cell phone policy for the board to consider. Supt. Lefdal said, “Just saying you can’t use them is not an answer. Our cell phone policy has to be driven by our teachers,” and must be consistent with all staff. Attendance and tardiness were also discussed, and is the subject of one of the proposed student handbook policies. The superintendent said there are many students coming in late each day, and it’s an ongoing issue. At times, parents are not very supportive, he said. In a recent meeting with a parent and their continually tardy child, the parent told administration they had the right to have their kids arrive late, Lefdal said.

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