By BECKY KISER
Following discussions at previous meetings, Hays USD 489 school board members Monday night unanimously approved a $1.35 million project for a full conversion of the Hays High School football field from grass to field turf, along with installation of a new digital lighting system.
The conversion will be done by Mammoth Construction, Meriden, through the Greenbush State Purchasing Cooperative.
Facility improvements will begin this spring at Hays High as part of the $1.43 million bond issue approved by school district patrons last year. The work will remove the school's current football practice field as well as soccer fields.
"We, of course, have a football playing facility across the parking lot," said Ron Wilson, superintendent. "It's not necessarily set up for soccer."
By converting it to a turf field, "we could utilize it for football practices and some varsity games, as well as soccer practices and soccer contests."
The new facility will also feature a field lighting system, which Hays High currently does not have.
Jeremy Capo of Mammoth Construction told the board the turf project has a full eight-year warranty. "Many of our systems stay in the ground 10-11 years," Capo said.
The district will also be purchasing the equipment needed for maintaining the turf surface weekly and as needed. The agreement calls for Mammoth to perform the maintenance and grooming the first two years as Hays workers are trained to take over after that.
The target date for completion is August 1, according to Wilson.
The change will also conserve water.
"There's a huge benefit in saving water for our community which values conservation," Wilson said.
"Basically, building an athletic complex with fields out there is the goal throughout this bond issue. It would be difficult for us to maintain grass fields for all these different sports.
"Turf is going to conserve water but it's also going to give us a surface we can pound the heck out of and not have to worry about bare spots."
Lease terms for the turf project will be approved at the next meeting.
Board members also unanimously approved a scope and sequence review of curriculum changes that will be implemented in the 2023-24 academic year.
No longer would every student be required to take chemistry. Instead, it will become one elective among additional course offerings in science and also in English language arts, giving students more choices of classes and in career pathways.
AP courses, found to be somewhat "limiting and binding," will change to Honors level classes.
Staff members proposed all the new electives and are already qualified to teach those classes. There is no additional financial cost in adding the courses.
"I really like the flexibility and the wide range that is presented within this curriculum, allowing the students to make their own decisions and express their interests, instead of us always telling them what they have to do all the time," said Lori Hertel, board member.
"To have the teachers wanting to do something different because they see it's going to help the kids go in different directions is so very positive," said board president Craig Pallister, who praised the administration and curriculum committee for their work. "The teachers are the experts. They know where they need to be going at this level."
The first reading of an update to the West Central Kansas Special Education Cooperative was reviewed by Kyle Carlin, director of special education.
The WCKSEC cooperative agreement is being updated to include Russell USD 407 for the 2024-25 school year.
As recommended by the Kansas State Department of Education, the cooperative agreement will reflect required elements and non-required elements will be moved to a bylaws document, the WCKSEC Administrative Procedural Handbook.
The current agreement was written in 1989. A vote on both documents will be made later in the year.
The superintendent's report by Wilson focused on Gov. Laura Kelly's recommendations for education funding in her proposed budget.
"The governor has been very supportive of education," Wilson said at the start.
Among Kelly's recommendations are an increase in base state aid this year, estimated at a 4 to 5% total increase; phasing in $75 million over five years for special education funding; adding another $1 million to Safe and Secure Schools; adding $3 million to the mental health initiative; and requiring the legislature to make the state payment to schools in June.
Wilson is keeping his eye on a proposed bill he believes would have a negative impact on USD 489.
House Bill 2048 would expand the private school tax credit to 100% of a donation. The limit would be increased to $20 million.
"We see large corporations taking advantage of this.
"The problem is it's creating a two-tiered system where private schools that don't have to take everyone would be getting public funds to educate, where we're going to educate anyone who's in our boundaries. Not a good bill. It would really be a detriment to our district and many others in the state."
House Bill 2040 could add a positive impact by adding a provision in the finance formula allowing current year enrollment to be used for funding. Currently, only the higher enrollment of the previous two years can be used. Wilson said the district has seen a small enrollment growth, and this "gives us an opportunity to take advantage of those funds in the current year and not have to wait another year."
Wilson concluded his report by reminding the board the next rebranding meeting for Hays High is Feb. 15.
In other business, the board:
* Approved a $91,000 bid from Sunflower Restaurant Supply for the purchase of seven pieces of food service equipment financed through the National School Lunch Program School Equipment Grants.
* Voted 6-1 to extend the five district level administrator contracts to 2024-25. Allen Park voted no.
* Approved the 2023-24 school calendar.
* Heard and approved the 2022 district financial audit from Melissa Rome of Adams-Brown, Hays.
* Approved the second reading of Kansas Association of School Boards recommended policy revisions which are aimed at offering alternatives for students and designing classes to keep students engaged.
* Heard from Chris Hipp, assistant superintendent, about renewal of the KERMP contract, which could include up to a 20% increase in the property insurance premium. Hipp also noted the school district has received its first monthly share - $320,000 for October 2022 - from the Hays city sales tax approved by voters to help fund the school bond issue.
* Recessed into a 15-minute executive session for discussion of non-elected personnel. No action was taken.