By Tina Kitt
The Wauneta Breeze
The school day as well as the school year are going to last a little longer at Wauneta-Palisade Schools after the local school board approved schedule changes Monday night.
When students return to school following Christmas break on Tuesday, Jan. 6, first period classes will begin at 7:50 a.m. a.m. MT instead of the current starting time of 8 a.m. MT.
The school day will end one minute later than it presently does, with the end of the school day switching to 3:11 p.m. MT. In addition, two minutes will be shaved off the lunch hour.
The changes were made based on suggestions by the Nebraska Department of Education following a visit to the WP district made last week by NDE Accreditation and School Improvement officials. They noted that the official WP 7-12 class schedule does not specify the time and length of passing time and bell time between each 50 minute class.
To accommodate that requirement, Principal Randy Geier formulated a new schedule, approved by the board Monday night, that clearly denotes three minutes of passing time in between classes. The changes required adding 11 extra minutes to the school day and shaving two minutes off the lunch break to make it all work.
Two extra school days have also been tacked on to the school year — May 21 and 22 — to adjust school operations to include 180 calendar teaching days, also done upon the request of NDE officials. School was originally scheduled to dismiss for the year on Wednesday, May 20, with the year encompassing 178 teaching days. The change will not affect teacher contracts which are negotiated to include 184 days.
Bus Superintendent Kenny Lawless said the changes shouldn’t affect the bus schedule already in place, with enough flexibility already built in to accommodate the longer school day.
Staff vacation issue clarified
The board also voted to clarify that classified staff members who are full-time, year-round employees are entitled to paid vacation time. There had been some disagreement whether work agreements stipulated that these staff members were entitled to paid time off. With Monday night’s action that time off is now clearly identified as paid time off. Any time requested will be in accord with the calendar and operational needs of the district, and coordinated with approval of the administration to maintain appropriate coverage of needed duties and tasks.
In another staff related issue, the board voted to assign Horace Mann Insurance the plan manager for the 403B Tax Sheltered Annuity plans for WP employees. This service will be handled by Horace Mann Insurance at no additional charge.
Library automation, Alert-Now notification system discussed
With an eye to keeping the school district in step with ever-developing technological advancements, the board discussed implementing a library automation system as well as an automatic information system for contacting parents and district patrons via telephone and internet.
WP Librarian Printha Fox gave an overview of the benefits of the automated library systems in place in most schools and public libraries in the region, noting that Wauneta-Palisade is one of the few schools in the area which is not automated.
Cost breakdowns were given for computer software, scanners, servers, staff training as well as AR enhancement and bar code labels for the Follett and Alexandria systems. Start up cost for Follett is projected at $9,877, compared to Alexandria at $8,137.
Annual maintenance costs would likely run around $400, said Fox.
WP Superintendent Nelson Dahl noted that a working knowledge of an automated library system is important for students as they go on to college where they will encounter these types of systems. He also pointed out that the system can augment programs for Title/Chapter students, making a percentage of the cost reimbursable.
The board also discussed the need for a notification system such as the Alert Now system showcased at the State School Board Convention. Board member Allison Sandman gave an overview of the benefits of the system which can automatically send out mass prerecorded telephone, text and email messages alerting parents and students to school closings, late starts, schedule changes and special events.
Fellow board member Bill Bischoff told the board the Chase County Hazard Mitigation Team is in the process of implementing a very similar system for emergency announcements, with plans to include the county’s school systems among the entities with access to the system.
Cost of the county’s system will be split among the entities using it and is designed to reach into neighboring communities with no long distance fees, making it a good fit for the Wauneta-Palisade School District which spans multiple counties and telephone prefixes.
Cost information for the available systems will be assembled with board members likely to discuss the automated messaging system at their January meeting.
In other action-item business the board:
• Voted to approve the second and final reading of Policies 3600 and 3560 relating to the district’s facilities, security cameras and the retention of business and operation records.
• Declined to grant a deadline waiver for an option-enrollment request from a parent seeking to opt-out their child at semester.
• Voted to seek bids to have a hot water heater installed in the school kitchen as well as bids for sewer line work to be done in the kitchen area next summer. That project will likely require removing portions of the concrete floor to replace sections of sewer lines.
• Approved a field trip outing for the district’s elementary students to deliver food drive items to the food pantry in Culbertson on Dec. 15.
• Accepted the audit report compiled by McDermott and Miller of Kearney.
• Met in closed session to conduct an administrator evaluation.