by nathan oster
Big Horn County School District No. 3 teachers went back to work this week in anticipation of the arrival of students for their first official day of the 2017-18 school year on Wednesday, Aug. 23.
When they do show up, students and parents alike will notice some changes.
Barry Bryant, the superintendent of schools, said that while the schedules remain about the same, there will be some new teachers joining the district, as well as a few who are moving to new posts.
New hires include Sara Hing, who will be teaching junior kindergarten at the elementary school, and Heather Thon, who will be stepping into the middle school science teaching position that Casey Bowe vacated in order to become the district’s new technology coordinator.
Kathy Clucas will also be wearing a new hat this year, taking over the GES/GMS music teaching position last held by Michael Jaycox.
Last but not least, Kimberly Keys has joined the GHS custodial staff.
Positions that have yet to be filled include four para-educators and an ELL teaching job. Eight were interviewed for the para-educator positions; Bryant said he will be recommending candidates to fill those vacancies during a special meeting of the school board set for Wednesday, Aug. 23 at 7 a.m.
Bryant said the district doesn’t anticipate a decline in enrollment. If anything, it could go up. He noted that there are more out-of-district students than ever this year, with 68 lined up so far to attend school in Greybull.
“Usually that number is in the 50s,” he said, adding that a good number of the requests have come in from the Basin school district.
Starting this year, every student in the district will have access to a Chromebook. While the elementary and middle school kids will need to check them in and out daily, each student at the high school will be issued his or her own device. A $5 technology fee will be charged. When they graduate, students will be able to buy their Chromebook for 1 cent.
One year ago, there was an administrative push to have all of the meals prepared in one kitchen and for finished meals to be transported to the other lunchroom in order to cut down on expenses.
While that didn’t quite go as planned — Bryant admitted that cooking still occurred in both kitchens except on days when labor-intensive items appeared on the menu — the end result was still positive for the district.
“We saved about $65,000 in food service last year,” he said.
While it still didn’t stand on its own and the district still had to contribute money to make it balance, the contribution of $70,000 was more palatable then the $135,000 the district had to kick in a year ago at this time, said Bryant.
He attributed those savings to more streamlined kitchen staff— this year there will be three full-timers and one part-timer — as well as savings in the purchasing of food items through the district’s BOCES arrangement with Northwest College.
“It should be run as an enterprise fund,” said Bryant. “I don’t know if we’ll ever get to zero, but we’re moving in the right direction.”
It’s been a busy summer of construction activity on the school grounds, with most of it centered around Buff Gym, the GMS Gym and the Quigg Building.
At Buff Gym, new rooms for the weight equipment and wrestlers were carved out in the new addition east of the gymnasium. The parking lot got an upgrade as well. Because it ranked as one of the poorer ones in the state, the legislature appropriated money for the upgrade.
The main parking lot on the north side of the gym has been expanded considerably this summer, handicapped parking spots have been designated on the south side of the gym and the west side of the gym is now reserved for school bus parking.
The district is also using money earmarked by the legislature to repair the bricks on the exterior of the Quigg Building. That work will be finished when school starts. Contractors have until Sept. 15, under the terms of the contract.
“We’re hoping they will be done with all the walls except for the east wall, which should mean there will be little to no parking disruptions,” said Bryant. “The problem is going to be, the classrooms are on the east side of the building. So we may need to deal with a little noise for awhile.”