State approves QZAB Funding for School district

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Superintendent Tim Frederick told the Mobridge-Pollock School Board, Monday, March 12, the district had been approved to receive more than $930,000 in Qualified Zone Academic Bonds (QZAB).

This is a bond program that allows districts to receive funding from bonds that are sold to banks. The bonds are issued by the state government for the purpose of funding renovation, providing equipment, developing course materials, training teachers and other school personnel in school districts. Districts are required to pay back the principle on the bonds, not the value of the funding received. Only the Mobridge–Pollock District is involved in the payback of the principle. The district taxpayers are not involved in process. The principle payments would be made for a 20-year period.

The district applied for the funding and qualified for $160,000 for Freeman-Davis and Upper Elementary Schools; $270,000 for the Mobridge-Pollock Middle School; and $500,000 for the M-P High School.

These funds will be used for replacing the roof on Freeman-Davis. At the middle school the district will upgrade the lighting system, repair and install handicap-accessible stairs and ramp, and install new carpet and seating in the theater.
The biggest projects are in the high school with a remodel and renovation of the current bus barn into the career and technical education building. The current building and trades classrooms will be remodeled into hospitality and tourism classrooms and equipment will be purchased for the metal fabrication, automotive and hospitality curriculum.

“As a condition for qualification for the grants, we formed partnerships with businesses in the community who have pledged well over $100,000 in in-kind donations,” Frederick told the board.

These private business contributions will be in technical assistance in developing curriculum, training teachers and promoting market-driven technology in the classroom. Internships and mentoring opportunities are also part of the discussion. The curriculum and courses will allow the student body to learn the skills to be career-ready or to move onto higher education when they graduate from Mobridge-Pollock High School, according to Frederick.

Renovation and remodeling of the bus barn will be included in the trades and building curriculum, according to Frederick. The students will work on installing the floor, framing and dry wall of the classroom walls and installing the ceiling.
”These projects need to be done within five years,” Frederick told the board. “These are projects that we have planned for the future. The QZAB allows us to do them now and to stretch out our capital outlay dollars.”

He said the bonds will allow the district if they choose to keep their busses, to set aside funding to purchase replacement vehicles, and to renovate the remaining classrooms in the middle school.

Frederick said he was scheduling a working board retreat for the end of March or early April for the board to set priorities and plans for the construction projects.

Class sizes

Frederick told the board more than 60 students ar projected to enroll in kindergarten next year. This will require that there be three sections of the class. That means the next year there will need to be three sections in first grade and so on.
“We need to add two teachers in the elementary,” he told the board.

He also explained how re-routing federal grant funding for teaching positions would allow converting positions to meet immediate needs and using other grant funding to pay for a position.

The projected enrollments for next year include the 60 kindergartners, 63 first-graders; 45 second-graders; 60 third-graders; 53 fourth-graders; and 46 fifth-graders.

Three sections will be needed in kindergarten, first, third and fourth grades.

Legislation

Frederick told the board legislation passed in Pierre this year would impact the district in several ways.

He said Senate Bill 25, which addresses the new system of accountability (replacing the No Child Left Behind law), is a concern for educators. He said the legislators set aside more than $8 million for training and administering the system for the next three years. Educators are concerned it will end up costing districts more to implement the new model.

Educators will have an opportunity for more input on the proposed new accountability model when it comes before the South Dakota Board of Education.

The most controversial bill passed this year was SB 1234, which set up a scholarship program to attract teachers to critical needs teaching positions in the state. It also provides bonuses to certain math and science teachers and allows for rewarding teachers with bonuses either through a state plan or local district options. The bill phases out the continuing contract (tenure) options for employing teachers.

“I think for the most part this bill was okay until the very end when the legislature refused to take out the language concerning tenure,” said Frederick. “The professional teaching organizations object to teachers losing continuing contracts.”

He told the board “not one penny in these bills addresses an increase in the per-student allocation” in state funding.
“Last year we weren’t happy with what they did but we made it work,” said Board President Harry “Bingo” Kindt.
He told the other board members that the bonus program could cause some backlash including criticism of the administration by the staff. He said board members should take that into consideration and be careful not to interfere.

– Katie Zerr –

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