On Tuesday, Sept. 3 at the regular meeting of Independent School District (ISD) 318 School Board, board members were updated on how the first day of school went for area schools by school administrators.
Bigfork School Principal Scott Patrow began the administrators report on the first day of school. Patrow reported the enrollment of the school is at 290 students—151 elementary and 139 high school. The first day went smoothly for Bigfork School.
“It was a great first day. I think in 15 years, about as smooth as I can remember,” Patrow said. “That’s a tribute to our board and great leadership. I want to thank all of you for that.”
Bigfork School completed their first fire drill and planned to run a lockdown drill on Friday, Sept. 6.
Patrow reported there was zero turnover in staff, besides early childhood staff, for the year.
“Not much to report and no news is good news,” Patrow said. “On a really positive note, seeing those smiling faces come through the door just really warms your heart as an educator.”
Grand Rapids High School (GRHS) Principal Mark Schroeder reminded the board that the first day for GRHS is used only for ninth grade students, new students and exchange students in order to give them a day to become accustomed to the school. There are a total of 339 ninth grade students at GRHS this school year.
“It was really a fun time and it’s fun to watch ninth graders come through the doors,” Schroeder said. “It’s a big school and they’re not the top of the pack anymore.”
The school held an assembly for the students featuring an online reporter for ESPN, who gave a motivational speech to the students. For the first time, the freshman class took a photo on the school’s football bleachers. Each senior class takes this photo every year and the school decided to begin the tradition in ninth grade so the students can compare the two photos once they graduate.
Tours of the high school were given to students, IPads were issued and students also took part in a graduation commitment ceremony. Together, all of the ninth grade class members signed a graduation gown in silver Sharpie, signifying their commitment to graduating. The school also conducted a regular lockdown drill.
Principal Daniel Adams of Robert J. Elkington Middle School in Grand Rapids was able to visit with about 15 of the classrooms and was pleased with how the day went overall. He commented on the admiration the teachers and staff had for how well the school’s building had been kept up over the summer.
“First and foremost, the building looked great,” Adams said. “We’ve had some jostling around in our custodial staff and staff. Teaching staff was really complimentary of the deep cleaning that happened over the summer.”
Adams expressed the bittersweet feeling he had as Monday marked the last, first day of school for the fifth grade students and teachers at the middle school. With the construction of the new elementary schools in Grand Rapids, the fifth grade class will move back to the elementary schools as it was previously. There are approximately 300 students in the fifth grade class.
“They’re a big part of our family,” Adams said. “It will be a big change.”
Clayton Lindner, principal of Southwest Elementary, brought feedback from each of the other elementary schools.
According to Lindner, PMurphy Elementary Principal Bruce Goodwin reported that relationship building is at full force and the students were amazing on their first day at Murphy.
Principal of Forest Lake Elementary School David Lostetter said, “There was a great feeling of positivity in the staff that is carried on in the district’s Back to School event and everyone at Forest Lake is ready to be great.”
Jill Wheelock, principal of Cohasset Elementary School said the school had a successful day of transportation for students, despite construction at the school. Students were dropped off and picked up safely and correctly.
Linder added that students at Southwest Elementary School were excited to start the school year and that the school is looking forward to bringing the fifth grade class back next year.
Newly appointed Superintendent Sean Martinson was able to visit a majority of the area schools on the first day and was interested to see how each school operates. Martinson was especially impressed with the transportation department for the area schools.
“It’s phenomenal on how they juggle all of the routes,” Martinson said.
Martinson reported that there were only two mishaps regarding transportation. This included a student getting on the wrong bus and a student falling asleep on the bus. Bus drivers were able to quickly solve each case and bring the student to where they needed to be.
After the administrators report, ISD 318 Communications Coordinator Jessica Setness presented a video slideshow featuring photos from the first day of school at all area schools.
In other business, the board:
• Approved 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 teacher contracts. Board members Pat Medure and Tom Peltier were a part of the negotiations. Changes in the contracts with financial impacts included a 1.75% salary increase for 2019-20 and a 1.5% salary increase for 2020-2021; increase in longevity; eligibility for health care savings plan decreased from four years to three years; increase in ability to use sick leave for childbirth, adoption and maternity or spousal leave; access to bereavement and emergency days for summer extender year teachers; reimbursement of tuition for teachers that instruct “college in the school” classes provided preapproval; and minor activity changes such as the addition of a Bigfork robotics coach, changes in the Three Act Play, addition of lacrosse in teacher contract; and addition of Color Guard and Percussion Coaches to teacher contracts. Additionally, there were language changes to the contracts with no financial impacts.
• Approved the Consent Agenda: Changes in staff for the district include the resignation of Lori Kuschel, Food & Nutrition; hire of Social Worker Kaley McNeil; transfer hire of Physical Education teacher Karen Nash; and ESP hire of Nancy Rollins.
• Approved annual contracts for varsity head coaches for 2019-2020 school year.
• Approved the request to bring in additional paraprofessional support on Special Education bus routes. Greig Olson, Transportation Director, requested two paraprofessionals be hired for five hours each per week. With the addition, all of the Special Education bus routes will have a paraprofessional onboard for both the morning and afternoon shifts.
• Announced upcoming meetings including—School Board Workshop Sept. 9, 5:30 p.m. in the Administrative (Admin.) Board Room; School Board Workshop Sept. 12 at 9 a.m. in the Admin. Board Room; Personnel Committee Sept. 16, at 2:30 p.m. in the Administrative Board Room; Labor/Management Committee Sept. 16 at 3:30 p.m in the Admin. Board Room; School Board Open Forum Sept. 9 at 6:30 p.m. at Bigfork School and via telepresence in Admin. Board Room; and School Board Regular Meeting Ept. 16 at 7 p.m. at Bigfork School and via telepresence in Admin. Board Room.