44 fifth-graders to be denied transfers

By Bryan Richardson

USD 383’s fifth-grade students who changed schools during the redistricting process might not be able to transfer back to their original schools.

The Board of Education approved the first reading of the district’s transfer policies Wednesday by a 5-2 margin with board president Doug Messer and Pete Paukstelis dissenting. Under the policy, the 10 seventh-grade students assigned to new schools would be able to stay at their current middle school.

However, the 44 fifth-grade students changing schools would have to stay at their reassigned school and wouldn’t have the option to go back to their old school. That’s what led Messer and Paukstelis to disagree with the administration’s recommendation.

Messer said he was onboard with the policy until he realized those students wouldn’t have the opportunity to move. “Saying we’re going to allow everyone in the district to transfer except these 44 students, I now have a pretty big problem with that,” he said.

Paukstelis also wanted to allow students to go back to their schools if there’s space for them. What he didn’t want to see, Paukstelis said, is out-of-district transfers get the opportunity to take a spot that the in-district fifth-grade students could’ve gotten.

“That doesn’t seem to be the right thing,” he said. “That doesn’t seem to be treating our public properly.”

Associate Supt. Bob Seymour said the concerns with letting the fifth-grade students transfer are space issues, equity and the precedent already set during the Bluemont Elementary reopening. In 2007, the district didn’t allow fifth-grade students to transfer but seventh-grade students could.

The other board members asserted that the students who have to change schools for their last year in elementary school would be fine. Two members, Leah Fliter and Darell Edie, went through similar situations.

Fliter said she had sympathy for the parents who emailed her because she never went to the same school for more than two years. She said she knew how hard it could be to start over. “I also know if you have a positive attitude and your parents have a positive attitude that it can work,” she said.

Edie said he changed schools because of redistricting when he went into the sixth grade. He described the change as bad due to the bad teaching he received at his new school. Despite the teaching situation, Edie said he met one of his best friends in his sixth-grade class.

“We don’t have that situation here,” Edie said. “We have great teachers.”

Feb. 20 count date

USD 383 could be in danger of losing money in future school years due to a potential change to the second enrollment count date legislation.

There are currently two days where the student enrollment is tallied at USD 383 for funding purposes — Sept. 20 and Feb. 20. The Feb. 20 count date, first used in 2005, is exclusively for military-impacted districts.

An amendment to a bill to extend the second count date would not only count the additional students districts added since the Sept. 20 count date, it would also subtract students who have left districts after the fall count date. The process has only counted the new arrivals since it began.

Supt. Bob Shannon said the district would lose approximately $400,000 this year if the legislation was in effect now. “That is a big rule change for us,” he said.

Shannon said the district needs to express its displeasure with the amendment.

Board vice-president Dave Colburn said, “This will be seen as an anti-military step.” He had concern about how it would look during the next Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), a process aimed to produce a more efficient military by closing access installations and realigning assets.


Stadium turf fund-raiser

The Manhattan High School Booster Club intends on beginning a fund-raising campaign to purchase synthetic turf at Bishop Stadium. It is estimated that new synthetic turf would cost between $750,000 and $1,000,000. Turf is expected to last 10 to 12 years depending on use.

Booster club representatives sought consensus from the school board that it would be okay to proceed with planning, which they received. There aren’t any details yet, but the club will start working with the administration on a plan, representatives said.

The booster club is also seeking the ability to provide naming rights to the field in order to attract major donors.

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