Pierz school officials move forward with eight-hour student day

By Lorae Vardas, Correspondent

It appears the Pierz School District will be scrapping the block schedule currently in use at the high school in favor of an eight-hour day next fall.  “We had a teacher vote last week regarding the change to an eight-period day and the result was 30 in favor and seven against,” Supt. George Weber told the School Board at its April 30 meeting. “So we are proceeding with that plan,” he said.

Weber reported they will have meetings with each grade of high school students to review how it impacts course selection. The new format should allow students more access to their first choice classes, he said. High School Principal Karrie Boser acknowledged she will be meeting with students and working on scheduling after the MCA online testing is complete. Faculty should benefit also with more prep time.

According to Weber, meetings were also held last week with kindergarten and preschool teachers to assess the need and gather ideas for additional classroom space at Pioneer Elementary School. An architect and construction company have been retained to come up with preliminary plans and cost estimates.

Meanwhile, the Board reviewed a list of non-referendum related capital improvements anticipated for this summer. The proposals include sound enhancements in some of the Healy High classrooms similar to those at Pioneer Elementary, remodeling at Pioneer Elementary Media Center by installation of sound walls to deal with noise issues, and designing a better sound system for the PAC stage.

Additionally, the high school track needs resurfacing and striping. The district already purchased a new handicap minibus with lift and is in the market for a new route bus. Administrators are evaluating the need to add a few more stalls to the existing bus garage at Pierz Industrial Park since diesel buses should be housed in cold climates.

Technology investments include at least 100 new electronic devices for students, over and above the 200 purchased in the last two years. A new student information system is also in the works. And, finally, there have been requests for better ventilation in both the Healy High conference room and the band room.

Pierz School Board Briefs:

In other agenda items at the April 30 meeting, the Pierz School Board:

•Was informed by the superintendent that he is waiting for exact data from state officials regarding how changes in local and state tax equalization legislation will affect the current levy and the need to renew the expiring voter-approved levy. A decision is expected at the June meeting;

•Approved the senior class trip to Washington, D.C. and New York City in 2015, as proposed by chaperones Roxanne Welle and Dean Dahmen. They asked for an extra day to fit in all the sights, including the Holocaust Museum. An exit survey of the 31 participants helps them plan the next year’s itinerary so fundraising can begin to make it affordable for all;

•Accepted donations of $600 from the Pierz Fire Relief Association for the school’s clay target league; $200 each from the Ramey-Morrill Area Lions and the Pierz Lions for Jr. High Student Council projects; and $400 from Federated Co-op for scholarships;

•Received resignations from Jolene Goodrich, special education teacher, effective at the end of the school year, and Shelby Erdrich, elementary education assistant as of April 25;

•Employed Karn Fraik, homebound teacher, effective April 1, and Jessica Teske, speech/language pathologist, for the 2014-2015 school year. Also granted was a long-term substitute contract for Hans Horning beginning May 2, and Lynn Gross as a driver for a special needs child beginning April 29. Anything over five days requires a long-term sub agreement, Weber said;

•Passed the standard resolution renewing membership in the Minnesota State High School League for the 2014-2015 school year.  Member schools are governed by the League’s constitution, bylaws, regulations and Official Handbook when participating in League sponsored activities;

•Accepted changes to the policy relating to community use of school facilities/equipment. Most involved increases in the fee schedule, which was last reviewed in 2008 and found to be substantially lower than neighboring school districts. With administrative approval, groups not serving Pierz students may rent school facilities outside of regular school hours. Fees are charged for specific area usage, custodial time and food service personnel, if needed. The cost of renting the three school gyms doubled, as did the cost of reserving the concession stand, cafeteria and commons.  Groups needing the services of extra custodians, cooks or supervisory help are charged at the current rate. School facilities are generally not rented for wedding receptions, showers, birthday parties, anniversaries or family reunions, etc.; and

•Noted that there will be extra security in place prior to graduation May 30 to discourage unacceptable behaviors that could result in disciplinary consequences affecting participation in the commencement ceremony. Principal Karrie Boser said she has had the conversation with the senior class and sent letters home to parents detailing the policy.

The Pierz School Board next meets Wednesday, May 28, at 6 p.m. in the Healy High Board Room.