Thursday, May 23, 2019

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Dupree School Board continues policy review and updates at regular April meeting


The Dupree School Board met Monday focusing predominantly on the district level wellness policy, the discipline procedures policy and the discipline grid.

The board made clear that some of the potential changes will impact policies written in the student and activities handbooks.

In a page by page review of the wellness policy, board members expressed concerns about making changes that the school is not yet able to uphold.

An example discussed in the meeting was the 60 minute-a-day requirement beyond the classroom for physical activity at the elementary level in the proposed policy, which is a state/federal requirement.

Currently, the Dupree elementary school has a 30-minute physical education course two times a week. They also have recess, but changes in the current logistics of the schedule will have to be figured out to ensure compliance with the policy when it is approved.

Other wellness policy discussions revolved around the kind of snacks and food allowed to be sold during the school day. Currently, one time a year, students can have a bake sale during school hours, but under the proposed policy, no baked goods can be sold during the school day or brought for class celebrations.

The federal guidelines were updated 2017-2018 and the current wellness policy for the school has been in place since the early 2000s and needs to be updated, Superintendent Gail Swenson said. 

The proposed policy calls for a committee that consists of a board member, community members, and representatives from the administration, teachers and students.

Leo Bakeberg, Vice President of the Dupree board volunteered to be on the committee, and board members shared ideas about possible community members who might volunteer to be on the wellness policy board.

According to Swenson, the committee has the power to review the implementation of the policy once approved and recommend policy changes to the board when necessary.

Board member Deanne Keagan expressed concern about approving the policy before being able to adhere to the revised requirements, but Swenson said the school is out of compliance with the old policy given it does not coincide with new standards.

Swenson said that the school would be closer to compliance under the new policy despite certain issues such as the physical activity requirements.

Beginning with the next school year, Counselor Patty Peacock suggested to the board that parents be given a flyer listing acceptable, healthy snacks to send with their students for special occasions that would comply with the school’s wellness policy. This flyer would fall under the policy’s requirement for educating and communicating with parents healthy habits.

The Board also discussed the behavior policy governing drug and alcohol abuse or selling and distribution. The discussion revolved primarily around whether or not to include a 10 day suspension for a first offense, with several board members considering 10 days too extensive for a first offense.

The consensus at the end of the discussion seemed to be for a 3-5 day suspension for a first offense if a student is caught using or under the influence of an illegal substance. On a second offense, the student could be placed on a 10-day suspension with a required drug and alcohol assessment. A third offense would land another 10 day suspension with a hearing that could lead to a long-term suspension or expulsion.

In the case of distribution, the idea on the table is a 10-day suspension on the first offense with notification of the proper authorities. A second offense would result in another 10-day suspension with an expulsion hearing.

The board also reviewed the grid of offenses and consequences with discussions about the severity or lack thereof of consequences,  and clarification on various points.

For each of these policies and the grid, the board determined further review, research and comparison with related policies in the various handbooks is necessary before approving any of them.

Keagan was particularly concerned about adopting policy changes and implementing them now when they do not coincide with the policies in the current handbooks.

Swenson said that the handbook has a sentence that indicates any change to a policy at the district or state level would automatically change the policy in the handbook.

The board determined to review these policies and the grid again in the April meeting before taking action.

Peacock presented to the board members a graph and explanation of the new state standards for graduating, which includes an explanation of the three types of diplomas a student can earn from SD high schools: an Advanced Endorsement (similar to what we have now), an Advanced Career Endorsement, or an Advanced Honors Endorsement.

Dupree school will have a soft im implementation of the new requirements for the year 2019-2020 with full implementation for the 2021 graduates.

An issue with the changes from the perspective of the Special Education specialists, according to Peacock, is the Algebra I requirement for students on an Individual Education plan or other students who might struggle in math.

If a student does not pass Algebra I, then a diploma will not be issued to that student. To address this issue, struggling students may take an Algebra 1a and 1b class so that the students have more time to practice, and master the material.

Another option is to add another math teacher to the staff to better service the students’ needs, which staff members said may be necessary given the size of the fifth grade classes, Peacock and Elementary Principal Cindy Lindskov said.

Related to earning graduation credits, Peacock proposed the board consider allowing students to earn one full credit for the dual Algebra I class, and after extensive discussion, the board decided that any dual credit class should be worth one credit, modeling that change after several other schools surveyed by Peacock.

The board approved the proposal unanimously, and now all dual credit courses are worth one credit to Dupree students who are eligible to take them.

This change will help students to achieve the requirements for the Regent Scholar honor and the Opportunity Scholarship.

In other business, the board approved a motion to accept the resignation of Kathleen Smith, effective Feb. 21, and of Margaret Lindskov, effective at the end of the 2018-2019 school year.

Each of the principals, the superintendent, and board members gave their regular reports, and Swenson updated the board on Bill’s that passed or died in the state capital in relation to education, including the Senate bill requiring the school hang a plaque with the “national motto ‘In God we trust’ on it.”

In addition to reviewing the policies in April’s meeting, the school will also begin reviewing the school calendar for the 2019-2020 school year.