RC School Board approves school safety enhancements

The Rush City School Board is doing its part to make sure students and staff are kept safe at school.

In an effort to keep all school visitors accounted for, the board on Feb. 21 agreed to remodel the main entry/office areas at both the high school and elementary school. Superintendent Vern Koepp said the design will require people to enter the office to sign in before they can access the rest of the building. The remodel at the high school carries a $35,250 pricetag, while a similar project at Jacobson Elementary will cost $14,400.

As early as next month, other security enhancements will be discussed and considered by the board, too, as budgets are developed. Keeping with building improvements and modifications, lock replacement with a deadbolt at both school buildings is an estimated $48,213 project, while changing out the locks with an intruder lock would cost $56,278.

Another proposed area is personnel, with a school resource officer working 40 hours a week for 40 weeks at a cost of $65,648. An officer at 20 hours a week over the same time frame was mentioned, as well.

An audio/video intercom system with electronic door opener also was presented for the high school main entry and receiving door ($5,241) and elementary main entry ($4,605). The estimated electrical cost is $3,000, and the annual maintenance fee, about $1,080.

“The Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Connecticut has sparked a national discussion about school safety,” Koepp wrote in this month’s school newsletter.

While the school board listened to citizen feedback during the December board meeting, school staff, board members and parents continued the conversation at school board advisory meetings in January and February. It’s been two months now that the board authorized locking the school buildings’ front entry doors and manning those areas with paid greeters.

“Our schools are safe,” Koepp added, “but we can make improvements to our buildings and building procedures that will increase safety for students and staff.”


Cell phones at school

The board modified language in the cell phones/electronic devices policy that’s found in the high school student/parent handbook (page 11-12).

While students may choose to bring electronic devices such as cell phones, iPods, MP3 players and CD players to school, “they do so at their own risk. RCHS is not responsible for lost or stolen items.”

Also, “the student should always ask permission to use an electronic device prior to actually using it. Students should turn off all electronic devices upon entering the classroom.”

Further, “school staff will not look through the contents of the electronic device unless there is reasonable suspicion (as determined by high school administration) the device is used in the commission of a crime or to cause disruption to the educational environment.”

No video taping or audio recording is allowed at anytime without permission, according to the policy, adding,  disruptions or distractions caused by an electronic device may result in the student being sent to the office where the following action will take place:

1. First offense: the device will be shut off and confiscated until the end of the school day when it will be returned.

2. Second offense: the device will be shut off and confiscated for a minimum of 24 hours.

3. Third offense: the device will be shut off and confiscated for a minimum of 48 hours.

4. Fourth offense and more: the device will be shut off and confiscated for a minimum of 72 hours.

These devices may not be returned during class time, on weekends, holidays and prior to the scheduled pick up times. Exceptions may be made for extended breaks and holidays. Refusal to comply with these procedures may result in individual students losing their privilege to bring electronics to school and/or other disciplinary actions as determined necessary by the administration.


In other news, the board:

• Approved resignations from teacher Deborah Guse, with retirement incentive, and maintenance custodian Patrick Blahnik. For Guse, she has been with the district for the last 24 years. “I am so proud to say that I am retiring from a school (Jacobson Elementary) that has always placed the students and their educational success first,” she said in her letter of resignation.

• Approved the 2013-14 schools calendar. Classes begin the day after Labor Day on Tuesday, Sept. 3. Winter break is Dec. 23 through Jan. 3. The last day of classes is June 4.

• Passed a resolution directing administrators to make recommendations for reductions in programs and positions.

• Changed the physical education requirement from one and a half credits to a single credit, then transferring the half credit to electives, for graduation from Rush City High School.

• Authorized an additional paraprofessional at the high school and a four-week leave request for teacher Lila Bennett, from Feb. 4 through March 4.

• Hired Melissa Martin, paraprofessional; Lee Wagner-Baker, paraprofessional; Tanya Leatherman, paraprofessional, six hours a week; Dennis Carlson, kindergarten route bus driver; and Christopher Erbstoesser, maintenance custodian.

• Renewed the employment of Robert Schlagel, activities director, and Vern Koepp, superintendent, for 2013-14.

• In anticipation of many preschool students with special education needs next year, the board modified the schedule to provide another section for 4 and 5-year-olds.

• Discussed the possibility of and costs associated with full day, every day kindergarten compared to half day, every day kindergarten. At present, the district offers the latter through four classrooms/sections, two full-time instructors, two full-time paraprofessionals and four noon bus routes per day. With the salaries totaling $28,300 and mileage adding another $27,900, the total cost is $56,200. To accommodate for full day, every day kindergarten, the district figured the total cost would be $150,000.

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