Written by Devon Boen
The major issues at the Wolf Point School board meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 9, surrounded renovations to the gymnasium, pay-to-participate fees and providing meals for student athletes at away-games.
The main renovations to the gymnasium suggested by activities director Mike Erickson were redoing the ceiling, replacing the gym floor and replacing the bleachers.
The board said it was in favor of the renovations, but felt the limited budget would prevent all of them from being completed in the near future.
A high-end bid for the entire project was estimated at $500,000. Martin DeWitt stated about $265,000 would be reasonable to spend on renovations at the moment.
“The safety is the gym floor. For our athletes, for our students. You’re running on cement. It’s done. It’s over with. It’s not about how many sandings you can get off of it anymore. It’s about what’s underneath our gym floor. There’s nothing there, and it’s time,” Erickson said.
DeWitt said he agreed the renovations should be done, but brought the group back to the problem of logistics.
“It’s not a problem of wanting to do it though, it’s a problem of funding. If the money’s not there, we can’t fix it. That’s the plain and simple of it,” DeWitt said.
Erickson said to move forward, the board should focus solely on completing the gym floor and tackling the larger project in increments over time. He said a top of the line gym floor would be $180,000 which would be affordable now, unlike the overall $500,000 project which would include the ceiling and bleachers.
It was determined fundraising would be a necessity to get the entire project completed. Board member Sonny Douglas called on the attendees of the meeting to be a part of a committee that would be in charge of researching grants, fundraising and organizing the logistics of the renovation.
Dr. Mark Zilkoski, among others at the meeting, said he would also be willing to help but wanted a more concrete game plan surrounding the issue rather than the abstract ideas already presented.
Several other people present agreed to be a part of the committee and the board agreed to start working on the details.
The board moved on to discuss the pay-to-participate in sports issue.
Currently, students are required to pay $50 for each sport they participate in and this has caused some mild controversy.
Erickson stated at a previous meeting that the multiple fees to play had already deterred some student athletes.
At the Oct. 9 meeting, a proposal to charge each student who participated in sports one flat fee of $50 and then additionally charge every student grades 4-12 a $30 dollar activity fee was presented to the board.
It was said charging each student for an activity fee would make up for any revenue lost by no longer charging per sport.
If this were enacted, those who had already paid for two or more sports would have the appropriate money deducted from future school fees or from their pay-to-participate fee next year. If the student was a senior, the money would simply be refunded.
Board member Janice Wemmer-Kegley was concerned the 4-6 students wouldn’t get their money’s worth with the activities ticket and it could potentially influence parents to drop students off at high school games without supervision.
In a subsequent special meeting, the board decided to change the policy and only charge students the fee for the entire school year rather than per sport and made no decision regarding the activity ticket.
This topic led to a discussion about issues surrounding fundraising for high school sports and meals provided to student athletes at away-games.
According to the Montana High School Sports Association, if any sort of meal is bought and provided for a sports team, a meal must be bought for every sports team in the school in order to adhere to Title IX and Ridgeway vs. Montana High School Sports Association.
Two years ago, the school board decided against providing meals to student/athletes which has inadvertently stirred up some controversy and anger in the community.
Parents were frustrated their children were travelling to distant locations and were not provided food. Attendees at the meeting said it was a difficult situation because even though they had no problem giving money to their child for a meal on the way, not every student had the same luxury from their parents and no one wanted to watch one or two kids go hungry while the others ate.
There was no simple solution to the problem because if a parent or anyone else decided to step in and provide food for the team, it would count as a violation of MHSA standards. The violations could lead to forfeiture of games and tournaments and could even lead to the school being turned away from MHSA sports altogether.
Community members were frustrated with the complexities of the rules surrounding meals and pointed to instances in the past when providing food for students didn’t seem to present a problem. Erickson explained it was never okay, just overlooked, and it had to be addressed and fixed now.
“No meals is no meals. I’m very adamant about following MHSA rules. There’s a lot of things we’ve allowed our teams to do in the past, but that does not make it okay to continue to do. We have to clean it up,” Erickson said.
The board agreed to look at the issue of meals again and possibly elect to provide them with certain stipulations in future years. One stipulation would be establishing a minimum distance the team would have to travel in order to receive a meal.
Switching gears, Wolf Point School District business manager Cheri’ Nygard spoke on issues about the 2012-13 budget.
Nygard expressed concerns the district budget would not remain in the black this year because she found out they would only receive a maximum 85 percent of the allotted Impact Aid, or 874, funds originally put in the 2012-13 budget.
“It is the best case scenario to get 85 percent of our revenues that are due to us,” Nygard said.
Superintendent Joe Paine did not believe it was dire news.
“We didn’t spend [the budgeted funds] all last year, and I don’t plan on doing it this year,” Paine said.
Next, the curriculum director informed the board the Average Number Belonging had dropped to 798 students, which is down 43 from last year. Desch said the majority of the discrepancy came from the high school.
Lower ANB statistics have the potential to lower state and federal funds provided to the school including Impact Aid funds.
The board went on to handle administrative issues.
It unanimously approved hiring Scott Nasner as the assistant high school basketball coach and Sharon Kolstad as the junior/senior high school after-school program tutor. It also hired Ellen Sievers, Lorene Hintz, Judy Holum, Wade Krauth, Daniel Harmon, Dawn Garfield, Ruth Boysun, John Abraham and Ben Redekopp as adult education instructors.
Kelli Vine, Melissa Smith, Susan Brown and Paige Vinton were hired for the Native American Literature After-School Program at Southside Elementary School and Melissa DeWitt and Lee Vandall were hired for the same program at Northside Elementary School.
Gregory Moniz was hired as the district technology administrator and Brittney Vandall was hired as the special education paraprofessional.
In a separate special meeting on Oct. 15, the board voted to sell or otherwise dispose of a 1999 Bluebird 84-passenger yellow bus and approved purchasing a bus from I-State Truck Center for $97,145.
It also approved hiring Travis Northington as the Southside School head custodian, John Colby as the Southside assistant custodian and Rainey Azure for the Southside Native American Literature After-School Program.