By Henry Netherland

Board approves policy updates, reviews Return to School Plan

Potomac School Board


August 19, 2021

POTOMAC - The Potomac Elementary School Board unanimously approved a series of Montana School Board Association (MTSBA) policy updates on both first and second readings during their monthly board meeting Monday, Aug. 9. During the meeting the board also approved their 2020-2021 trustees’ financial summary and budget as well as reviewed their Return to School Plan.

The required updates approved on second reading dealt with student immunization, administering medication and prevention of disease transmission. The recommended updates touched on food services and district safety. These updates were mostly minor wording adjustments and grammar improvements.

The required new policies had to do with water supply systems while the recommended new policies touched on chemical safety, air quality restrictions and indoor air quality.

The policies that were updated on first reading had to do with student discipline, firearms and weapons, and conduct for both visitors and students on school property.

The board unanimously approved the school’s Return to School Plan which was developed at their meeting in May. Minor wording adjustments were made but there were no substantive changes. Face coverings will be recommended but not required.

During his report, Principal John Rouse announced that the school received notice from the Office of Civil Rights that a complaint was filed against the District. He said although the details were minimal, an anonymous individual complained that the school’s playground equipment is not handicap appropriate and that there are an insufficient number of accessible handicap parking spaces available.

Rouse decided to hold off on taking any action because the letter was sent to a wrong address in Bonner and was addressed to the superintendent instead of him. He expects to have an update by the September meeting. 

Rouse said there was a similar complaint submitted to the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI). He said upon OPI’s analysis, which was conducted by two separate people, the school met the necessary criteria. He said the school has five handicap parking spaces.

Board Chair Courtney Hathaway said the school will likely be found without fault and would not be held liable. However, it could take months for the claim to be dismissed resulting in thousands of dollars coming out of the general fund and going towards legal fees.

Vice Chair Cliff Vann said if the school is in violation of something, then they should fix it but currently he does not see any necessary accommodations that need to be done.

“This feels like a black and white situation,” he said.

Trustee Jayme Fairfield said she wishes that the individual had directly communicated with the school on their grievances to see if any action could have been taken.

“They’re causing us to put money towards [something] that might not even be necessary … instead of putting it in other areas that educate the kids,” she said.

Rouse also said the school is looking to fill a paraprofessional position. He said no degree or teaching experience is required and that they would help applicants receive a certification from OPI. 

Rouse also announced that they were able to use grant funds to help compensate multiple teachers who had continued working for the school over the summer.

During her report, Clerk Heather Marcella went over the trustees’ financial summary and 2020-2021 budget which were both approved. The proposed adopted budget for the next fiscal year is $723,744.07. This is the maximum allowable budget without holding a levy, which the trustees chose not to run this year. 

As of June 30, the current reserve balance was $104,324.79. This year’s proposed budget for the transportation fund is $151,966.46. The budget for the tuition fund, which is used for the special education program is $31,758.90. The building reserve fund’s budget will be $108,217.72.

Board members unanimously approved their electronic vote for the following MTSBA items:

• MTSBA principles and guidelines

• FY23 dues revenue estimate

• The nomination of Steve Walter as MTSBA President-Elect

• The nomination of Tom Billteen as MTSBA Vice-President

In other business the board approved the following:

• Hired Jodi Hausmann as the 2021-2022 pre-kindergarten teacher.

• The list of classified employees.

• Appointed Vann and Trustee Wes Mitchell on the Facilities Committee.

• Appointed Rouse as a representative to the Missoula Area Special Education Cooperative joint advisory board.

The Board decided to push their September meeting an hour earlier so they could have time to discuss strategic plans and goals. The next meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 13.


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