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Engage 204 Update

Reported by on 9/17/18

During the 2017-18 school year, the Board of Education commissioned a group of community members to come together to help facilitate a series of community engagement sessions. The purpose was to gather input from the community to advise the board in planning. A total of five sessions were held from November through March. The sessions covered a broad range of topics, including academic programs, maintenance repairs and budgets.

In May, the Engage 204 leadership team presented the following list of priority recommendations that were a result of the community meetings:

1. Reduce average class size
2. Complete deferred maintenance projects
3. Address teacher salaries to align with benchmark districts
4. Hire additional staff with focus on mental health support
5. Upgrade classroom locks and intercoms
6. Secure program space for Indian Plains and STEPS programs
7. Complete elementary air conditioning
8. Consistently fund annual capital maintenance spending at recommended level of $4 million.

Administrators developed an implementation plan and are already moving forward with several recommendations. Specifically, there is now a full-time mental health staff member in each elementary school. The safety project of upgrading classroom locks and school intercoms is starting this year. Phase four of installing elementary classroom air conditioning was completed this summer. Deferred maintenance projects have started and a schedule was developed to tackle the work in the most efficient way. The STEPS program has been consolidated to two locations with the majority of students now located in one building. And a new location for Indian Plains is being pursued so the program can be relocated next year.

The district also made progress on addressing teacher salaries to be more aligned with other districts. The recent teachers' contract raised starting salaries so they are no longer the lowest compared to benchmark districts.

Two items require long-term planning. Reducing average class sizes from 27 to 24 would require approximately $16.7 million annually. If additional funds became available, administrators have recommended the greatest impact would be to reduce class size in early grades at schools with higher percentages of low-income families. This would also require a comprehensive look at school boundaries to accommodate moving students. Another long-term item is spending $4 million each year to maintain the district's 33 schools at the recommended level by independent consultants. This recommendation would be implemented should additional funds become available.

If you would like more information, you can find all of the Engage 204 presentations here.

Additional Resources:

Engage 204 Facilitating Team Presentation to Board of Education
Implementation Plan Presented to Board of Education

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