Yuma-1 Board covers several topics during monthly meeting

Superintendent Dianna Chrisman dropped the news toward the end of Monday night’s Yuma School District-1 Board of Education’s regular monthly meeting.

Yuma County had been moved to Safer at Home Level 2, requiring stricter restrictions for the county during the COVID-19 pandemic, due to consistently high levels of new cases (nearly an average of 18 per week over the past seven weeks).
Chrisman told the board she was not sure how it would impact the district’s COVID plan, though it definitely will reduce the number of spectators at Friday night’s football game from 250 per team to 175. She said she would be visiting with the county’s other school superintendents on Tuesday in an effort to figure out the impacts.
“Part of me feels almost like we’re starting at square one,” she said.
Yuma’s seventh and eight grade went into two weeks of remote learning Monday due to one positive case announced last Friday. The junior high had to go remote mainly because some teachers have to quarantine. It led to this past Tuesday’s YMS football game against Wray being turned into a “scrimmage” since enough of Yuma’s starters had to go into quarantine.
It is the second time the seventh-graders have had to go to remote learning this school year.

Transportation issues
The challenge of busing Yuma students to and from school was brought before the board again Monday night.
Chrisman said it will be an ongoing agenda item at board meetings as the district tries to find solutions.
The district has been utilizing mini-buses, driven by teachers and administrators, to help cover routes due to a chronic shortage of drivers.
The board approved the purchase of another mini-bus for $59,000 during the meeting. The bus is available soon, and will allow the district to do another route, providing some flexibility.
Chrisman told the board the district has looked at salary increases, benefit increases, and has visited with County Express and a charter bus company that has provided services to the district before, along with visiting with area districts about pooling bus driver services.
Chrisman said it seems improving the benefits is more of an enticement than increasing wages. She told the board the district will keep exploring options.
The district announced earlier this month the elimination of some pick-up spots in town for bus routes. However, Transportation Supervisor Jeanne Yenter told the board that did not help as much as initially anticipated as the buses still are full and the district continues struggling to cover the town routes.

More meeting
Prior to approving the mini-bus purchase and getting a transportation update, the board was given a budget update.
“We’re sitting good for this year and, for now, into next year,” Chrisman told the board.
The 2020-21 budget will not be finalized until January. The superintendent said that as of now, Yuma-1 will be able to put about $600,000 into reserves, thanks to CARES funds helping offset reductions. She said it will not be a problem for the district to spend all the CARES money, which also can be used for salaries through December. The funds have been used toward purchases such as Chromebooks for all students in the district, chargers, hot spots and other related items.
There also is a question on the ballot about repealing the Gallagher Amendment. Chrisman told the board that if that fails, there will be bigger cuts to the 2021-22 budget. However, she also noted the state’s economy forecast is better than what it was in the past.
The CASB Delegate Assembly is coming up later this month. Board member Duane Brown and President Dan Ross will be participating virtually, so they sought from guidance from their fellow board members in regards to some of the resolutions, which total 21 submitted by schools districts and more from the state and federal level.
One has to do with moving away from the official October count for state-equalization funding. Board members were against that idea as it could create difficulty in having funds in the spring.
Another has to do with rewriting the 1994 school finance act, including all districts going to the same mill levy. That would result in Yuma-1 having to raise its mill levy, meaning higher property taxes. While it was noted the school finance act probably should be updated, it would be best until after the November election to consider such a move.
Board members indicated they would support their representatives in voting for a resolution calling for no public funds going toward private schools, including charter schools.
Speaking of charter schools, there is another resolution demanding charter school founders submit a rationale for a waiver from state educational mandates. The board was told it would create more accountability for charter schools and more transparency in trying to create one, which board members supported.
A fifth resolution brought before the school board deals with urging state and federal officials to take action on climate change in order to protect students, basically being cognizant of climate change when making decisions. There was some debate about the resolution’s purpose but it was mainly decided the resolution simply stated support for climate change. Ross said he was not fundamentally opposed because people need to be aware of it, and most school districts already do what they can in regards to recycling and energy-efficient measures within their buildings.

Consent calendar
It was a relatively-short Consent Calendar approved by the board, Monday night.
The board approved the financial report as of September 20, and the September 2020 check register. It also approve the following donations: $250 from Y-W Electric to Yuma FFA; $2,500 from Schramm Feedlot to Yuma FFA; $250 from the Yuma Booster Club to YHS cross country; $500 from Jim Pagel, Cindy Gardner and Kathy Christianson for the YHS band; $50 from the Yuma Booster Club to YHS boys golf, and; another $100 from the Yuma Booster Club to YHS cross country.
The board also approved the first reading of a policy dealing with the Title IX Sexual Harassment Grievance Process, as well as the approval of a new YSD-1 mascot vector file, which is similar to the recent mascot file but with some cosmetic improvements.

Project update
Superintendent Dianna Chrisman provided the Yuma-1 Board of Education with an update on the $32 million renovation expansion project, Monday night during its regular monthly meeting.
She told the board that since it is getting close to winter, the work on the south parking lot at YHS where the new auxiliary gym is located will be done next year after school lets out, along with asphalt upgrades along the east side of the high school that will help with parking.
As for the gym, interior painting is taking place, and it remains on schedule of being completed by early January (though the hope remains it will actually be done earlier).
The foundation is going to be poured very soon for the new wing at Yuma High School, she told the board.
However, it was also reported that the underground work for the new wing is exposing old brick from the original Yuma High School. If it turns out there is asbestos involved, it will all have to be removed and new dirt brought in.
As for the bus loop on the west side of the district’s west campus, the board was told it would not cost much more to pour concrete rather than use asphalt, and the extra cost could be covered by savings in other parts of the project.
Chrisman said the issue, though, is the loop would have to be closed for a minimum of four weeks. Therefore, her suggestion was to patch up any rough spots in the bus loop for the time being, and the concrete work could be done after the school year. Chrisman said the recommendation will be brought before the board officially for approval later in the school year.