School district wraps up construction in 2012

By Bryan Richardson

For USD 383, 2012 was the year that the school district finally completed its facility promises to the taxpayers.

The projects from the $97.5 million bond issue passed by voters in November 2008 to renovate the district’s buildings finished in November with the Marlatt Elementary gym addition.

At the beginning of the year, Marlatt, both Manhattan High campuses, Bluemont Elementary, Theodore Roosevelt Elementary, Woodrow Wilson Elementary, Bergman Elementary, and Anthony and Eisenhower middle schools were at various points of completion.

The bond issue’s total improvements, not including the MHS West Campus project, involved 123,930 square feet in additions and 316,466 square feet in renovations. The total cost of $53,814,202 was $1,317,645 under budget.

In addition to Marlatt’s gym, this year’s completed tasks included renovations of F Hall, upper C Hall and the locker rooms at MHS West, and gym renovations at multiple schools. MHS East also received plaster repairs, painting, new carpet and new furniture.

In addition, Bergman, the middle schools and MHS East received a closed-circuit camera system to monitor the entrances and electronic locks that can be activated to allow visitors into the building.

The bond issue included $2.2 million in security improvements such as secure public entrances, locks that allow teachers to secure their doors from the inside and security alarm systems.

The perceived importance of this particular aspect of the bond issue increased in the aftermath of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14. Adam Lanza killed his mother at their home before going to the school and killing 20 children, 6 adults and then himself.

The Connecticut murders have affected lunch-hour security at Manhattan High School.

Before the incident, all 37 doors at MHS were unlocked from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. during lunchtime when the students are allowed to leave school to eat as a part of the open lunch policy. Supt. Bob Shannon said during the Dec. 19 board meeting that only two doors other than the front door are now left open so that students can enter and exit.

Also this year, USD 383 underwent a redistricting process to get more students into Lee Elementary. New construction at the school had transformed Lee from a small elementary school to a large elementary, increasing its target enrollment number from 246 students to 472 students. The process was finalized at the top of the year.

The district welcomed a new principal in Deb Nauerth, who began this fall at Woodrow Wilson Elementary. Nauerth attended Woodrow Wilson herself when she was an elementary student. She replaced Eric Koppes, who is now the principal at Rock Creek Junior/Senior High.

The academic highlight of the year was Austin Canady, an MHS senior who earned perfect scores on both the ACT and SAT.

It is unknown how many students achieve a double perfect score because of the lack of data on students who take both tests. However, merely getting a perfect score on either one of the tests is a rare accomplishment. For the class of 2012, 360 students, or 0.022 percent of the more than 1.66 million test takers nationwide, achieved a 2400 perfect score on the SAT. It’s a bit more likely to get a perfect score on the ACT: 781 students, or 0.047 percent out of more than 1.66 million test-takers, earned a 36 in the 2012 class.

The school board has devoted the latter part of the year to addressing the issues concerning the 2013-14 school year and beyond.

This initiative comes from the board’s winter retreat in February when members expressed the desire to address the issues of switching the elementary and secondary start times, MHS open lunch, senior early release and the high school schedule. The topic of the elementary schedule was later added.

The board reached decisions on three of the issues so far.

• The board voted to keep the start times for elementary and secondary schools the same in October.

• MHS sophomores will not be allowed to leave school for lunch starting next school year based on the board’s decision in October. Board members indicated this could be the start of a gradual shift in policy toward keeping every student at school for lunch.

• In December, the board elected to continue second semester early release for seniors on track for graduation with parental approval. The board also decided to create a definition of college and career readiness, to be used when students seek to be considered for early graduation or senior early release, starting in the 2014-15 school year.

Further discussions and decisions about the high school and elementary schedules are to come at the beginning of 2013 after committees presented reports to the board in December.

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