BOE voices support for building trades



February 14, 2018 - 12:00 AM

HUMBOLDT — A high school program that builds houses in Humboldt could be expanded to provide credits in math and English, USD 258 board members were told Monday night.
Members expressed strong support of the district’s building trades program when Superintendent Kay Lewis asked if they wanted to re-evaluate the program in their search for a new instructor.
Lewis said a concern with the program is securing land on which to build future homes.
Board president Kevin Heisler said he thought plenty of available properties exist, including homes that could be demolished or even renovated. He suggested the district consider buying one or two lots ahead of time, at least a year before the class might need to start a new project.
“I know the last two years have been a little shaky, but I think we should make another go of it,” Heisler said. “I’d like to see it go as long as we can.”
Lewis asked if the board wanted to offer the program as a two-year venture so that each project lasted two years from start to finish.
“I like the two-year as long as students are still picking up skills. If they’re still learning the same as year one, we’re wasting our time,” Heisler said.
A two-year program offers more educational opportunities, Lewis said. Because students would need to spend two or three hours at a time in the building trades class, they potentially could earn dual credits for math and English. Math credits would be easy to incorporate because students learn skills like measuring. Lewis said she would have to look into the English credits, but it’s possible they could incorporate things like how to read blueprints and other types of plans. Board member Scott Murrow suggested they consider renovation projects as well as new buildings; learning about building practices through the years could qualify as an English project.
The program could include other educational opportunities and even other students, Lewis and board members said. Students could learn financial literacy by setting a budget and could be more involved in the process when it comes time to sell the home. Other classes could help with the landscaping or fencing. Journalism students could help with a brochure or video to promote the house once it’s completed.
“I think we can make it bigger than what it is, but remember the main focus is building a nice, solid home for someone,” Heisler said.

A COMMITTEE could be formed to explore building a storm shelter at Humboldt Elementary School.
Lewis said she has taken preliminary steps to determine what will be needed for such a project. She suggested the district establish a committee with other area residents and emergency management officials to further examine the issue.
Board member Sandy Whitaker said she feels strongly about the need for an emergency shelter at the school and also has began to study the matter. She talked to another school district that is building a shelter. She also learned about a FEMA grant that potentially could pay about 75 percent of the costs.
Ideally, the shelter could house about 350 people and could be used for classrooms or other uses while school is in session. It could serve as a community shelter when school is not in session.

IN OTHER business, board members:
— approved an “exit interview” questionnaire to give teachers as they leave the district. The questionnaire could help the district learn how to better attract or retain teachers.
— received a copy of a new policy about accepting students enrolled in a foreign exchange program. Lewis said the goal is to make sure foreign students understand English and are adequately prepared to handle the curriculum.
— heard a report about the ANW Special Education Co-op from Don Hauser about the difficulty in attracting and retaining special education teachers.
— heard a report from Lewis, who suggested the district offer wrestling beginning at the middle school level. The high school’s wrestling team is competitive but could be even more so if students learned skills at a younger age, she said. The middle school wrestling season is short, between Oct. 16 and Nov. 30, with only a slight overlap with the high school season, which this year runs Nov. 13 to Feb. 25.
Lewis also reported a possible program with the Kansas Masonic Literacy Center, which picks districts to work to improve literacy in grades K-12. Humboldt Elementary School is in the running for the program that could bring about $35,500 over three years.
“We were pretty excited,” she said.

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