School population on the rise

22_chs-peppers-02HOT PEPPERS — Kelci Watterud shows off some hot peppers she just roasted for a salsa dish for her Foods and Nutrition Class. In the background are Courtney Anderson and Bryce Watterud performing sous chef duties.  Photo courtesy of Tammy Jones-CHS

By Deanna Wakkinen, I-O Reporter

Reports from all four schools included this year’s school populations. The total population for the 2010-11 school year for all schools is 598 students. Craig Barringer, elementary and middle school principal, who reported second, presented enrollment predictions up through school year 2013-14. His prediction for that year is a total population of 539. To reach this prediction he used the average number of students incoming the school system.

Barringer commented that the average number of incoming kindergarteners is 36, however, this year they experienced a much higher amount of 53. He also expressed his joy for the newbies and all the diversity they bring each year.

With the new school year, the three principals also experienced this year’s open house. All reported dwindling crowds from years past.  Meadowlark had a 68 percent attendance, Prairie View had 69 percent, Utterback Middle School had 38 percent and Ken Larson, principle of the Conrad High School, did not report a percentage but said that the number was better than last year but not yet to where they want it to be.

This year, UMS is trying something new with their lunch hour and have moved it to an earlier time. So far, they report that this is working well for the high schoolers, as they get more time in the lunch room this way, but has created issues with access to the playground.

On a note from lunch hour, Barringer plans a locally grown meal in October. Recently, Doris Clifton, Greg Jensen, PVS principle, and Barringer met with a group who are encouraging schools to provide healthier and often locally grown meals.

Currently, hamburger is purchased out of the Power area from Broken Arrow Ranch and their tomatoes and cucumbers are purchased from Natural Tomatoes out of Chester. Both facilities meet the USDA regulations. Clifton is working with state producers to provide a meal that does not exceed the budget limits.

The breakfast program for this year has changed. With these changes, the school has gone from 125 average students to 52.
Reduced and free meals are again offered. The State uses the percentage of these meals to determine our poverty level.

Currently we are at 34 percent for all schools.  This percentage is higher than in previous years, but also, more high schoolers are eating school lunch, and therefore, affecting this percentage more.

Prairie View and the high school seem to be works in progress as they experience small and larger improvements. PVS recently received new carpet in the entry way and new shelves in the library. The old shelves of the library were removed when PVS had been closed. Metal shelves have resided since it’s reopening. The new wood shelves make it seem, once again, to be a library (according to Jenson).

The Prairie View is also working with Logan Gouchenour and the Boy Scouts in enclosing the gazebo to make it an outdoor classroom. Chary Majerus has also been painting and improving the look of the memorial signs. Work still needs done on the baseball fields. New locks have been put on the wooden doors of the school to ensure safety during a lock in.

The Prairie View facility is currently being offered as available to different groups and organizations. Most times the facility can be used at no charge, but if an activity is charging those involved, a small fee is acquired by the host.

CHS is expecting a new green house. $30,000 was originally budgeted for this project. With two options being presented, the board chose the cheaper of the two, quoted at around $33,000. This greenhouse kit would provide a 18’x32’ building. Tek Supply Gothic Premium, Swank, Tri-County Mechanical and Kronebusch Electric were all included in this bid.

The second option was predicted to cost $52,779 and to provide a 24’x48’ building. This kit was the Senior Teaching Greenhouse Package. Neither of the options provided include the cost of the manual labor to assembly the greenhouse kit but hopes are high for community support. Superintendent of schools Lynn Utterback hopes to have the greenhouse put up this fall so it may be used this school year.

A new roof was also discussed with options to be presented from a company called Chiefs’ inspection report.

The custodial report noted that the walk-in freezer at the Meadowlark was repaired but needs to have the cooling system replaced and updated. The auto defrost that quit working during the summer cost $1,058 to fix for now, but a redo repair of the system is going to cost $5,950. This redo will give an energy savings in the long run.

A two door cooler also had a Freon leak and its cost to fix was $770.

New advisor and sponsors were announced and recommended. Todd Truscott was appointed the ninth grade advisor.

Volleyball sponsors were requested to be Jim Carroll (who is currently a sponsor), Jenna Baum and Sam Vidal. Vidal is also the Student Counsel Advisor.

Student Council President Amber Stenson was present to express the Counsel’s plans for the year. She stated that their main goal is to encourage more school pride.

The Conrad home opener for the football team was a Redout event. Tickets were given to all students wearing red and five t-shirts were awarded to drawing winners. Five shirts were also thrown out to the adult section.

Props were provided during a home volleyball game including cowboy hats, bandanas, beads and even crazy gray and red hair. Vidal and Stenson said the result was the most school pride they had seen at any volleyball game. A Whiteout is currently being planned for an upcoming volleyball game. Pep Band and Yell Squad are also contributing to the goal of more school pride.

Upcoming events at CHS include midterm exams on Sept. 27, an early out on Sept 29 for Infinite Campus training and cheerleading tryout practice on Oct. 4. Farther out events are the SATs on Oct. 9, FFA in Billings on Oct. 10-12 and PSAT on Oct. 10-13.

Upcoming events at UMS include magazine sales, which run two weeks beginning this week, a new student luncheon on Sept. 23 from 11:45-12:30 and Boone and Crocket Science Day for seventh grade Sept. 28 and 30. Meadowlark and Prairie View can look forward to Fire Prevention Day Oct. 8.

Board members enrolled to go to MCEL in Billings. MCEL is the Montana Conference of Education Leadership.

Carroll reported on transportation issues. He stated that no new buses will be purchased this year. He did mention, however, that Raymond Moritz is looking to retire. Moritz wishes to retire as soon as possible and Carroll is currently reviewing candidates.

A Big Sky Special Needs Cooperative Representative was chosen and that representative is Utterback.

Every year the board does facility inspections. This year the board plans to meet on Sept. 22 at 3 p.m.

Short term trustee goals were brought up by Carole Jones and a numbered sheet was provided. Jones’ proposal encompasses gathering all data to drive the decisions made in our district. With this data collected, the community, as well as, the board and teachers can gauge performance as it relates to the goals we have for our students. Infinite campus would be the main resource for data.

The next regular school board meeting is scheduled for Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Russell Building (Board Conference room).

The Russell Building is not handicapped accessible. The meeting will be moved the UMS library upon the request of any person unable to attend a meeting in the Russell Building because of a disability. Requests to move the meeting location should be made to the Personnel Office (278-5521) prior to the time of the meeting.

As an end note, if you haven’t been to in awhile, check it out. Great job to all striving to keep the community and parents well informed on our schools.