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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Salem schools get summer improvements

Friday, July 27, 2012

No, a freak snow storm did not recently hit the Salem school campus. That white stuff is sand. School maintenance crews are spreading a thin layer of sand on athletic fields, one of many improvement projects undertaken on campus during summer break. The top-dressing project levels fields, and the sand helps hold in moisture in the soil -- something that should help the grass during the continuing drought. Photo by Richard Irby [Order this photo]
Salem students may be enjoying their summer vacations, but there has been little rest for the school maintenance staff.

"It's been a busy summer, but we've been able to get quite a few things done," Superintendent Ken Rich told the Salem School Board at its Monday, July 16 meeting.

A list distributed by the superintendent listed the painting of seven classrooms, the painting of four bathrooms in the high school and all bath rooms in the elementary.

Another project still underway involves painting of the door trim around all doors in the high school. That is in anticipation of new solid wood doors being installed in the school before the start of the school year.

Other school improvements include replacing carpet in the main office, counselor's office and Distance Learning Lab in the high school, a climbing wall students should enjoy in the elementary gymnasium, and new banners will go up in the high school gym recognizing recent basketball and football accomplishments.

The week of July 16, school internet bandwidth was increased for both downloads and uploads. The uploading bandwidth was increased from 1.5 mbps to 20 mbps -- a large increase to prepare for the day that state achievement testing is done online, and will involve student uploading of information.

Outside, cracks were filled and the elementary parking lot was sealed and striped, and a new concrete sidewalk was installed at Greyhound Stadium from the main entrance to the home bleachers

All athletic fields are being top-dressed with sand. The process involves using tractors to dump loads of sand on athletic fields, and spread it out over the grass. According to the superintendent, the sand fills in low spots and levels playing fields, and helps hold in moisture.

In other business, the board passed a resolution requesting that the County Clerk not open a polling place for voting during statewide school board elections on Sept. 18. Rich explained that no polling place is needed, because there is not a contested race for the school board seat which is open. Incumbent Karen Coffman filed for reelection, and has no opponent. Voters who wish to, will be able to cast ballots through early and absentee voting.

The board approved bids for the new school year for propane, mat, mop and towel service, and milk.

At $130.9 per gallon, MFA Propane submitted the lowest bid for gas. Its bid was seven cents and nine cents lower than bids from two other companies.

Cintas was chosen over three other bidders to provide mat, mop and towel service. It was the low bidder or tied for low bidder on all of the products included in the contract.

As the only milk company in the area that provides services to schools, the Highland Dairy was chosen as the district's milk supplier. While superintendent Rich expressed frustration at the lack of competition, he noted, "If you look at the bid prices, they are slightly less than what we accepted last year." Unlike propane, which is supplied all year for a fixed price, milk is based on the current price of milk, and the price charged is allowed to change once per month. Last year, it went up some months and down others, based on the actual price of milk.

The board agreed with the superintendent's recommendation to reject the low bid for bread. The district normally receives two bids -- one from Interstate and one from Flowers Baking. "For some reason, we only have one bid, and I know there are two companies which serve this area," Rich told the board. "I would recommend that we reject Flowers' bid and re-bid it, so that we can get two bids for bread." The board vote to re-bid was unanimous.

The superintendent reported that the district has received two E-Rate grants for the next school year -- $8,774 to help pay for telephone service, which is 80% of the total cost, and $17,942 for internet access.

"That is 80 percent of our internet access cost for next year," Rich said. "That is very important, because we have an increased cost due to the increase in (bandwidth) speed, which we just talked about."

The financial report showed that the district is in good financial shape, although the difference between the budget and money actually spent was closer than in recent years.

The superintendent said that the district will be allocated the "full amount" of federal funds that have been received in recent years. He has been warned, however, that January 1, there will be a "request ration," requiring the district to give 10 percent back, unless Congress takes action to reverse the cut. "So, when we're planning our budgets, we'll just plan for 10 percent less," Rich said, "which is a pretty big deal."

Board member Karen Coffman asked if the district will give school supplies to students at the start of the school year, as in past years.

Rich replied that supplies, backpacks and sleeping mats for kindergartners will be distributed. The only difference is, federal stimulus funds have paid for the supplies the past three years, while they will come out of Title 1 funds this year. Considering the cost of student supplies and a 10 percent cut in federal funds, Rich said, "There won't be as much Title 1 money for us during this year, and last year we spent most of it primarily for technology. We'll see a decrease in money available to us, then."

The board ended its meeting by going into executive session to discuss a personnel matter.

Back in regular session, the board voted to hire Dana Johns as a school bus driver, the last staff vacancy to be filled for the new school year.

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