Haakon District Board of Education proactive on foreseeable money woes

"At no time has the board ever discussed closing the Cheyenne School," said Superintendent Keven Morehart at the Monday, November 15 meeting of the Haakon School District Board of Education.

He and school board member Mark Radway had held an informal, an "almost random" meeting with parents in the Cheyenne school area. "This was just an informational meeting, a good meeting, with good community input. Cheyenne School will be open next fall," said Morehart. At present, the Cheyenne School enrollment for next school year may be four students spanning kindergarten through eighth grade.

An executive session was held concerning student issues. After the session, no action was taken.

The receiving ponds at the end of the line for the Philip schools' geo-thermal heating system are in need of upkeep. Draining them, taking the built-up sludge and repairing the seepage is estimated to cost $300,000. Instead of using ponds, a closed system would negate the need for barium chloride to condition the slightly radioactive water, and a closed system would be less labor-intensive. But, the possibility of adding Philip Health Services, Inc. to the heating system would be gone. A committee will investigate options before next summer.

The board members discussed the possibility of a future opt out on the ceiling for the taxes that fund the school district. South Dakota law allows 15 percent of the district's capital outlay to be transferred to the general fund. Morehart reported that South Dakota governor-elect Dennis Daugaard made a campaign promise that districts would not be penalized for having savings above a certain percentage of their general fund, but Haakon School District will probably be below that percentage by next year.

On the financial positive side, there are only three payments remaining on the Fine Arts Building project. There might also be grants available for upkeep of the receiving ponds for the geo-thermal heating system.

Concerning these possible assists to the shrinking reserves in the district budget, Morehart said, "It's only going to be a bandaid. All this doesn't fix the inevitable, just prolongs it." Principal Jeff Rieckman had previously reported that 70 percent of the South Dakota's school districts are worse off financially than Haakon School District is. Relating to the need for state-wide help by the legislature in the near future, School Board President Bill Slovek said, "If we can just hold on for a couple of years, the state might come up with a solution."

For the month of October, the school district accrued a total of $2,023.64 costs for a total of 25 days of substitute teacher pay. Wages for hourly employees for the same time period came to $22,091.33 for a total of 2,004.42 hours of work.

A fire and safety inspection was held. Almost all the noted items have already been corrected. Items included such things as having a designated amount of space between desks for quick exiting from a classroom. Other items, such as putting a panic bar on a second exit to a specific room, will be taken care of soon.

In his principal's report, Rieckman noted that the second quarter grade check will be November 24. The junior high winter concert will be November 30, while the elementary concert will be December 6 and the high school concert will be December 14.

In the superintendent's report, Morehart announced that students Joseph One Skunk and Wyatt Schaak, both yellow belts, won first places in a Jujitsu competition in Rapid City. South Dakota All State Academic football honors go to student managers Tawnie DeJong, Lissa Papousek and Emma Slovek, and to player Jeff O'Connell. All Conference football honors for the Western Great Plains Conference go to Trey Fortune, Wyatt Kammerer, Travis Nelson, Clint Nelson and Tucker McDaniel. Honorable Mention WGPC football goes to John Schofield and Cody Reder. All State 9AA football designation goes to tackle Clint Nelson, while honorable mention goes to linebacker Travis Nelson.

The next scheduled meeting for the Board of Education will be at 6:00 p.m. Monday, December 20, in room A-1 of the Philip High School.