Purdy school board applies for FEMA project

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Purdy R-2 Board of Education agreed to apply for consideration for storm shelter funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at the board's September meeting.

Superintendent Dr. Steven Chancellor changed the regular board meeting format and expanded the program presentations. Board members each had iPads for the first time that were used to follow the meeting.

Chancellor reported speaking to other area school superintendents informally about storm shelter plans. At the present time, there are no storm shelters in Purdy. Chancellor said 900 people live within a half-mile radius of the school.

Technically, no money is available for shelters. Chancellor said applications are nonetheless made and funds tend to become available in one to two years. The district needed to submit a notice of intent by the end of September for the next round of consideration.

Due to Purdy's location in a high risk tornado area, funding was more likely. A shelter in a box format with no other uses could receive 75 percent funding, with the rest covered by the district. The local cost would be more if the structure was built as a multi-purpose building, but the district's cost would not likely surpass 50 percent.

Chancellor envisioned looking at an 8,800-square-foot building that would hold all of the teachers, students and 75 guests during the school day, or 1,000 people on a non-school day. The building would be a stand-alone structure.

Board members liked the idea and approved the application. Chancellor received authorization to select an architect for a basic plan. There would be no financial obligation until the district reached the design phase, Chancellor added.

Administrative action

At Chancellor's recommendation, the board agreed to make the recycling coordinator into an official position that carries a stipend. Chancellor said the recycling program, created under Spanish Club sponsor Gerry Wass, had always been a volunteer duty. Creating a job description and offering a stipend would position the district to name a successor.

Board members also agreed to provide an endorsement to the Southwest Center for Educational Excellence, which is preparing to apply for a federal Race to the Top grant.

The board agreed to name Stephanie Ray as a substitute girls basketball coach, stepping in while Jennifer Schallert is on maternity leave.

Robert and Gail Dohn and Mary Fenske were added to the substitute teacher list. The sick leave pool was approved for the year with 188 days available, the same as last year.

Backpack program

Rebecca Webb, a representative from St. John's Lutheran Church at Stones Prairie, and elementary principal Jeff Swadley updated the board on the food backpack program. Webb said the program started in March of 2010, serving 12 children to the end of the school year.

The following school year, with expanded support from other Purdy area churches, the program started serving 24 children, which expanded in November, 2011 to 40 students, representing 15 to 20 percent of the elementary children.

Cost of the program is $7 per week per child, or $280 a month. The effort cost about $10,000 last year. Webb said meals vary between around eight combinations and are high on protein content. A group of volunteers take around 30 to 45 minutes each week to pack the meals. Swadley suggested allowing the children to take some ownership in the program this year, so they help with the packing.

Only 34 children qualified for assistance this year, chosen by a committee of 10. Twenty-one families are served. Webb said 40 is about the limit of what the program can handle.

Initially donations carried the effort. Webb said at the present time, funds will last up to mid-year. A fundraising letter will be sent to try to cover the rest of the school year.

Media center progress

Dianna Laswell, director of the district's library and media center, reported making major gains in reaching the state standard for books. Acquisitions over the summer reduced the number of needed non-fiction books from 2,000 to 313. All other areas now meet or exceed state standards.

A total of 75 electronic book titles have been purchased for the Kindle devices, much of which is non-fiction. Laswell said ebooks can be duplicated on six devices. With six new Kindles, bringing the total to 12, Laswell is considering dedicating one of them for non-fiction books.

Cost for ebooks is $21 per title. The children have simultaneous access to the same title. A title can be checked out by a class and everyone there can read it.

Daily circulation is down, Laswell said, in part because enrollment in the district has dropped. Students are now also not required to read a specific number of books. Those who enjoy reading remain highly motivated, she added.

Media outreach

Elementary secretary Susan Funkhouser briefed the board on her new duties as a media coordinator. Funkhouser used the Smartboard in the board room to show features on the district's new Facebook page. Sixty-seven historic photos, including views of all the district's school buildings, have been posted.

Funkhouser and Bob Vice, high school principal, walked board members through the district's updated webpage, which was launched on Sept. 18. Vice said the format had been designed using Share Point. They showed detailed updated school calendars available, including color coding for different sports.

Superintendent's report

Chancellor said plans have begun to offer a free health risk assessment for the staff as a first step in creating a comprehensive wellness program for the district. He invited board members to participate. The exam takes about 15 to 20 minutes.

The first year will serve as a baseline to give a general overview. Participants will get an alert if a major point of concern is noted. Each person receives an individual report.

Chancellor also reviewed the presentation he made to the Purdy City Council about his idea of placing banners on utility poles to promote the community. He proposed placing the banners on Highway C, from Highway 37 to the cemetery. Cost would be around $3,800 for 27 banners.

Board members liked the idea and authorized Chancellor to proceed. Several different sized samples would be made and viewed to see which looked best when viewed by motorists.

The next board meeting will be held on Oct. 15.

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