District recognizes new ‘holiday’

Instead of President's Day, the Iola school district will take the day off for the Monday after the Super Bowl. Many teachers used vacation or personal time to take the day off in the past.

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Local News

April 9, 2024 - 2:19 PM

Jennifer Taylor, president of USD 257 Board of Trustees, listens to a presentation at Monday’s meeting. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Iola school board members are so confident the Kansas Chiefs will win a third consecutive Super Bowl, they’re already planning to give everyone the next day off.

OK, so the Chiefs may not win every championship, Superintendent Stacey Fager acknowledged. But the Super Bowl has become a de facto American holiday. It’s easily more popular than, say, President’s Day.

So the board agreed to do a switcheroo. Instead of having President’s Day off on Feb. 17, 2025, Iola teachers, staff and students will get the day off a week earlier, on Feb. 10, the Monday after the Super Bowl.

More and more districts are making the same change, Fager said. It’s common for teachers and staff to request the day off, as the Super Bowl and its associated parties run late into Sunday evening. This year, when the Chiefs won the championship, even more took Monday off to celebrate. 

Scheduling the day off in advance means those teachers won’t have to take a personal or vacation day, and the move should be popular with teachers and families alike, Laura Caillouet-Weiner, who represents the teacher’s union, said. 

It’s not just about football, Fager added. Teachers and staff find it useful to have a day off that’s not a federal holiday when banks and most governmental offices are closed.

Now, though, they’ll have to reschedule that President’s Day party.

Summer maintenance projects

Some of the district’s maintenance needs will get a temporary hold as officials wait to see what might happen with baseball and softball facilities.

Maintenance director Aaron Cole outlined four projects his staff or contractors could tackle this summer. One, replacing boilers at the high school, is a priority. The others could wait a year. 

Superintendent Fager recommended board members hold off on at least one of the more expensive projects, rebuilding a retaining wall near parking stalls on the east side of Iola Middle School. That’s because the district is currently in the midst of discussions with the City of Iola and Allen Community College about baseball and softball facilities. It’s still too early to know what plan might result, but whatever the district decides to pursue is likely to be a costly endeavor. 

Board members mostly agreed. The middle school project is needed and would replace a 2-foot retaining wall, moving it back toward the school about 30 inches, rebuilding a sidewalk and repaving over cracks in the parking lot. The extra space will give vehicles more clearance from the nearby street. Currently, longer trucks cannot park in those stalls without sticking out into the road. That project is estimated to cost about $128,937. It can wait until next summer, board members decided. 

The boilers, on the other hand, need to be replaced as soon as possible. Cole said the current two-unit system is 36 years old, far exceeding its 24-year lifespan. The system is only about 70% efficient and replacement parts are nearly impossible to find. The system struggles when temperatures drop below 10 degrees and Cole doesn’t believe it will survive another winter. He wants to replace it with a three-unit system, which would alternate between the three so that two are always running and one is a backup. Cole also would change the vent system to go into a sidewall rather than through the roof, and would remove two existing smokestacks used by the current boilers. That way, when the district redoes the roof it will have fewer penetration areas that could lead to leaks.

The board agreed to seek bids to replace the boilers, which Cole estimates could cost up to $300,000.

The other two projects were much less costly. One would replace carpets in parts of the middle school. The other would replace partitions in bathrooms at the middle school.

Though Fager suggested both could wait, board members decided to move forward with the bathroom partitions. Board member Dan Willis said the outdated, broken partitions are an embarrassment when other schools visit. Others agreed. Cole received three bids to replace them and recommended accepting the low bid from All Partitions for $22,766.

The carpets will have to wait.

Tech equipment

Ben Prasko, the district’s technology director, asked board members to consider adding an eSports program, in which students compete through online video games. Such programs are becoming popular at high schools and colleges, with scholarships available. Fager said he would not be surprised to see eSports added as a sanctioned Kansas State High School Activities Association sport. Prasko and Fager recently toured an eSports program at Fort Scott to learn more. It could be either a Caraeer and Technical Education program that fits into an existing pathway, or an after-school program. The Fort Scott district offers it as a CTE class; at Girard, it’s an after-school program.

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