Cheney Free Press -

By Lee Hughes
Staff Reporter 

Medical Lake School Board gets federal aid overview

Long term planning for building maintenance and construction needs also discussed

 


The Medical Lake School board received updates on a variety of topics at its regularly scheduled meeting March 26 at Medical Lake Middle School.

Director of Finance Chad Moss presented an annual report of the district’s asset prevention program.

“We know that there’s issues in the buildings,” Moss said. “We’ve got stuff on our plan that we obviously want to look at.”

The district is required to submit an annual Site Condition Rating Summary report to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), according to Moss.

The report includes ratings from excellent to uninhabitable, and categories such as roadways, structures, landscaping, athletic facilities, water and sewer, lighting and electrical systems, and storm drainage systems.

The main item on the district’s radar is the aging Medical Lake High School; particularly the roof over the school’s the main building. Built in 1980, the roof is experiencing “leaking,” due to “cracking, tears, holes and breaks,” the report states.

Its condition is rated as “poor.”

The district is currently working on a grant application with OSPI to develop a long-term construction plan.

The ultimate goal is to acquire funding assistance for future construction projects, Moss said.

The board would be reviewing summer projects at its April meeting, Superintendent Tim Ames said.

Medical Lake High School Athletic Director Justin Blayne provided an update on district spring sports.

“It’s been an interesting start,” Blayne told the board, referring to what he called an “odd start” due to the late winter snows that delayed many spring sports activities throughout the NEA league. Many other schools were faring worse than Medical Lake, he said.

Most sports were just starting to play, even though the season is in it’s fifth week, he told the board.

Blayne noted that about 200 students had turned out for spring sports. All told, there were “well over” 300 students involved in some sort of extracurricular activity after school.

“It’s what we want to see,” Blayne said. “It’s what connects kids to what they enjoy.”

Ames and Assistant Superintendent Kim Headrick offered the board a refined overview of results from a recent assessment that provided administrators with insights regarding how stakeholders — staff, students and parents — view the district.

The assessment measures nine characteristics of “high-performing schools,” and includes such categories as supportive learning environment, effective leadership and high standards and expectations.

Overall, the response was positive, Ames said, although he admitted district staff tends to focus on the negative comments.

Ames pulled one item from the staff assessment related to “focused professional development.” While a majority — 74 percent felt it was “almost always true,” or “often true,” and 19 percent said it was “sometimes true,” 9 percent felt it was “seldom true” or “almost never true.”

Ames saw those lower numbers as an opportunity.

“What exactly is it that you feel like as a staff that’s not focused or presented,” Ames said. “It’s a good conversation to start talking with staff at the high school.”

Similar outreach efforts will be made regarding information obtained from parents and students, Ames told the board.

Interestingly, students rated the district lowest in the “parent and community involvement” category. Twenty one percent felt it was “seldom true,” or “almost never true.”

The assessment information will be used in the district’s strategic plan for planning purposes, Ames said.

A planning session is scheduled for the June school board meeting.

Ames also reported on a recent trip to a National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS) conference in Washington D.C. where he, two board members and other school administrators spent three days discussing member legislative priorities and lobbying elected officials.

A presentation talking-points sheet he used at the conference noted that 7 percent of the districts $1.8 million budget is funded by federal Impact Aid money that supports educating the 850 military students who constitute nearly half the district’s student body.

Another message Ames took to D.C. was the need for additional funding for special needs students. Special education continues to be mandated but underfunded at both the state and federal level.

Ames lamented a potential change in current federal program funding.

Many school districts like Medical Lake are handicapped by an inability to tax federal lands, like Fairchild Air Force Base, yet are expected to teach children who reside there. Recognizing this, the federal government grants such districts funding like Impact Aid to offset the districts costs.

However, changes being discussed in the presidential administration and Congress would shift Impact Aid and other federal school dollars into voucher programs.

President Trump’s budget includes those and other school funding cuts.

“I don’t want to get political, but now that our president has far exceeded spending, there’s not a lot from Republicans about putting the caps back on the spending,” Ames said.

In other business, for the fifth time, according to Ames, the board approved the district’s drug-free workplace policy as required by all districts that receive Impact Aid funds from the federal government.

The board also approved a bid proposal requirement that outlined when and how competitive bids were required for purchases, and how those bids are to be advertised and other bidding details.

Lee Hughes can be reached at lee@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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