Members of the New Richmond Board of Education peered into their collective crystal ball at their work session Monday, Oct. 17, and discussed the potential for future expansion and the timeline for a referendum with Dean Beeninga of ATS&R.
Examination of a long range facilities analysis originally commissioned in 2018 was delayed by the pandemic and revived by the board at its Jan. 17 meeting.
The analysis did not look at the high school or Hillside Elementary as they are the newest additions to the district, are in good physical condition and already address many of the shortcomings identified in the other buildings.
Beeninga explained that the study evaluated the district’s need to expand from three perspectives: enrollment compared to capacity; the physical condition of facilities; and how well buildings are facilitating the curriculum.
The analysis rated the condition of items on a five point scale from “failed” to “new” and prioritized the need for action as urgent, medium or low.
The analysis indicated the Middle School, Starr and Paperjack Elementary schools are near capacity with classroom limitations based on the projected increase in enrollment.
The review of the physical condition of facilities included everything from parking lots and sidewalks to roofs, windows and exterior walls, interior and exterior lighting, plumbing, HVAC, food service facilities, technology, security and alarm systems, flooring, electrical service and distribution.
Coupled with the physical capacity of each building, improving the educational adequacy or how well buildings are facilitating the curriculum was the biggest need. To address that need the district will need to consider the addition of different types and sizes of learning, making and meeting spaces not just classrooms like media centers, inclusive bathrooms, small group break out and meeting spaces, flexible collaborative areas, outdoor classrooms and spaces suitable for one-on-one work.
Beeninga walked members through the timeline to prepare a referendum.
In order to facilitate an April 4, 2023, vote, the district would need to begin conducting community task force meetings in November. They would need to formulate, agree on and submit a resolution to the state by Jan. 24, 2023, leaving two months to educate residents and campaign for passage of the resolution in early April.
Board members unanimously agreed the analysis makes a compelling case for expansion, but it will require more study. They were not ready to commit to a referendum.
Superintendent Troy Miller solicited input from board members regarding student discipline procedures particularly as it pertains to expulsion for drug-related offenses. Miller is reviewing the district's policy with building principals and the district’s attorney in preparation for drafting changes to the policy.
Miller framed the discussion as aligning the district’s policy with some of the surrounding districts by looking at the issue more discriminately for instance, distinguishing between possession and distribution as opposed to the existing zero tolerance policy.
Board member Paula Kolbeck made clear her objection to any change to the district’s existing zero tolerance policy.
“Marjuana is a gateway drug. I’m an HR director so I’ve seen a lot of situations with drugs. We don't hire someone if they are using marhjunana, if they can’t pass a drug test. I think if we’re going to go lenient on this, that’s what I would call it, I personally struggle with that. I see what happens in those situations, and I don’t think it’s good … If we’re voting on something like this, to change our direction on this away from expulsion, I would not be able to support that,” Kolbeck said.
Kathy Rogers, director of student services, explained that some districts have instituted a pre-expulsion approach which essentially reverses New Richmond’s approach by giving a student the opportunity to receive support before being expelled.
A student would still be subject to assessments and held accountable but would have access to supportive services and counseling while still enrolled, to learn to make better choices and change behavior to avoid being expelled.
Currently students in the New Richmond district are expelled and then presented with a list of requirements for early entrance back into school. That process can take anywhere from a semester to up to two years depending on a variety of variables. Learning is lost and if the student fails to catch up and earn enough credits to graduate, their future potential can be diminished.
“What many schools around us are doing is they flip that model. They say, ‘You get to stay here. You have the next month to complete many of the same things. We want to see an AODA assessment. We want to see that you are getting into counseling, and if you don't do those things within six weeks then we’re going to go back and kick in the expulsion. We keep them in school while we’re trying to help them versus taking them out of school and telling them to go get the help,” Rogers said.
Miller is expected to present a draft policy at the Oct. 24 school board meeting.