Seven things to know from G-R school board

1. Superintendent Erik Smith reported to the G-R Board of Education during their regular meeting on Sept. 16 that certified enrollment for the district projects to see an increase of 40 students for the 2021-22 school year.

Smith pointed out that 10 of the 40 students that moved into the area are open enrolling to other districts, but that the remaining increase of 30 was still an encouraging number to see.

The increases have been seen at various grade levels throughout the district and are not contained within one particular grade or building.

2. In his monthly report to the board, Activities Director John Olson gave an update on the ongoing analysis of the G-R softball program after the team saw minimal participation this summer and three coaches resigned shortly after the season concluded.

Olson said multiple surrounding districts have declined to consider a softball sharing agreement with G-R as they would be required to count G-R’s enrollment toward their classification. In most cases the addition of G-R would require the host district’s team to bump up a class and compete against larger schools in the playoffs.

In the report, Olson indicated a proposal may be going before the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU) at their October meeting to consider allowing classification exceptions for schools with small rosters to not count against the classification numbers for districts that bring them into a sharing arrangement.

Olson said he expects to have more information about the IGHSAU proposal and decisions from additional area districts around softball sharing agreements in the next couple months.

3. The Board Facilities Committee plan to interview construction management companies on Sept. 29 as they investigate the possibility of hiring a manager to steer the upcoming facilities projects at Gladbrook-Reinbeck.

Smith said the district’s tentative plans are to proceed with the demolition of the vacant school building in Gladbrook as they look toward future campus improvements in Reinbeck.

The district is working with architects at Invision to determine if they should fold in the demolition with the facility improvements as one larger project or proceed first with the demolition as a separate project and then with the improvements as a second phase.

Although a budget number for the demolition was not discussed Thursday, Smith said the district plans to utilize state sales tax dollars for the demolition portion of the project rather than general obligation bonds.

4. The board heard public comment from Julie Russell-Steuart of Reinbeck who serves as the chair of the Disability Caucus of the Iowa Democratic Party.

Russell-Steuart spoke saying she felt school districts including Gladbrook-Reinbeck would be violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act by failing to mandate masks in schools.

“Which of our children are going to be in the hospital?,” Russell-Steuart said. “Do you want to be responsible for that?”

The board held no discussion regarding COVID-19 or masking for students and staff during their Sept. 16 meeting.

5. Technology Coordinator Sam Rogers brought forward information to the board about the potential for an eSports program to be established at Gladbrook-Reinbeck.

In his monthly report to the board Rogers said eSports, or competitive video gaming, is one of the fastest growing competitive sectors in the world.

His hope would be that eSports offered through the school could connect extracurricular activities with students that otherwise may not participate in athletics, fine arts or agriculture programs.

Last year the North Tama School District established its own competitive eSports program and is one among multiple schools in the area and throughout the state to offer eSports.

A survey completed by 113 G-R students from grades 7-12 showed that 42 students would be interested in participating in such a program, with another 45 indicating they might be interested in an eSports extracurricular.

Rogers is working to develop a budget and a formal proposal to bring before the board at a future meeting.

6. Gladbrook-Reinbeck saw a slight decrease in special education needs across fiscal year 2021. The district’s special education budget deficit for the most recent fiscal year was at a deficit of $268,751.53, down from $353,628.83 the year before.

The board approved a Modified Allowable Growth Request to be submitted to the state School Budget Review Committee for funding to address the deficit.

The request allows the district to levy property taxes as part of the next budget to put funding toward the deficit.

The special education budget deficit is determined by the amount of special education services including Individualized Education Programs (IEP) a school uses in a certain year.

Over the past six years the special education budget deficit at Gladbrook-Reinbeck has gone up and down from as low as $522.02 in fiscal year 2018 to $353,628.83 in fiscal year 2020.

7. G-R Ag Instructor and T-55 FFA Advisor Hunter Hamilton spoke to the board Thursday regarding plans for a group of FFA students to attend the 2021 National FFA Convention in Indianapolis on Oct. 26-29.

The group hopes to take eight students and has a budget of $4,722 that will come close to fully funding the student’s trip expenses.

While on the trip the group will hear keynote speakers, visit a bison farm, attend a college and career fair and attend a country music concert among other things.

Funding for the trip comes in part through donations from the Friends of T-55 FFA booster organization and from the chapter’s own account that has grown over the past year due to a limited year of activities in 2020.