SJ School Board gets construction update, hears school reports

The San Juan School Board met on September 11 at Whitehorse High School in Montezuma Creek.

Business Administrator Kyle Hosler provided a brief update of the progress on construction projects for Bluff Elementary School and the Montezuma Creek Elementary School gymnasium.

Both projects are advancing.

In addition, the school board delayed action on a request from Utah Navajo Health Systems (UNHS) for space for an ambulance shed in Monument Valley.

The issue comes down to the limited space in the area and the incredible views.

The school board indicated that they would prefer to lease a piece of property that is east of the property that was requested by UNHS.

“We have to make the best decision for the San Juan School District,” said Board member Merri Shumway.  She added that “the views are paramount.”

The requested land is near the school district housing complex and could possibly be used for expanded housing.

The preferred site for the school district may impinge on the views from the UNHS clinic.

Shumway added that the district benefits from having clinic and safety buildings adjacent to the schools.  

In other matters, the board heard reports from Montezuma Creek Elementary School Principal Connie Todachinnie and from White High School Principal Kim Schaefer.

Schaefer asked the board for a full time athletic director and extended availability of a school nurse at the school.

Currently, the athletic director position is held by full-time teachers who are reimbursed $2,600. “They have a tremendous workload,” said Schaefer.

“We really have to get down to improving learning in our building,” said Schaefer.  She stated that a full-time athletic director and a full-time nurse would allow the school to focus on instruction.

Superintendent Nielson said, “This is a balancing act.  A school nurse and athletic director all compete for limited resources.”

The board briefly discussed the District Quest Model to empower students.

Superintendent Ron Nielson said that the model helps the district focus on all the support systems in order to work together as a team.

In coming months, the district will develop a “portrait of a graduate” document to identify the skills a graduate should have.

A new state law requires the district to provide Safe School training for students.  The district is looking at several options and may provide a video training for the students during combined Hope Week and Safety Week activities.

“This could be a real beneficial piece,” said Human Resource Director Matt Keyes

The board discussed the recent actions in Bluff regarding zoning ordinances.  The new and old school properties are in commercial zones.

The board is refining the building use policy for community use of school facilities.

A key area of concern is the need for general liability insurance for non-school organizations who use the facility.

Superintendent Nielson stated that there may be some protection through the Government Immunity Act for facility use for town hall meetings and public functions.  This would designate the facility as a “civic center”.

However, State Risk Management states that the district makes sure that policy covers the district from liability for non-government or for-profit organizations that use the schools.

Nielson discussed the spending plans which are being developed for sports and activities.  He stated that there will be 50 or 60 spending plans in all, with an anticipated public release of the documents in January and approval by the school board by April 1.

The spending plans are part of an audit of the fee waiver system in Utah schools.  

Fees are paid for all qualifying students.  The cost of implementing the spending plans is anticipated to be several hundred thousand dollars.

In the past, the southern schools applied fee waivers to all students.  Under the new system, each student will be required to document their eligibility for fee waivers.

Sweet Job Awards were presented to two employees of Whitehorse High School. A teacher, Kristen Bushnell, was nominated by Kim Schaefer. An attendance tracker, Carol Reynolds, was nominated by Kristine Fitzgerald.

In the public comment portion of the meeting, Montezuma Creek area residents asked about paperwork for the fee waiver program, charges for the use of school facilities, air-conditioned buses, providing internet access in area homes, and securing entrances to the schools.

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