Gilpin School board debates track and field concerns

Members consider seat belts for buses

by Patty Unruh

The Gilpin County Board of Education met on Tuesday, June 6. Craig Holmes, Kersten Armstrong, and Steve Boulter were the Board members present. Member Charlotte Taylor participated by telephone, and Brook Ramsey was absent. Superintendent David MacKenzie and Secretary to the Board Joni Schmidt were present.

Congratulations and Celebrations

The Board noted with relief that school was done for the year. MacKenzie had spoken to the staff last Thursday at a luncheon, thanking them for a great year. Secondary secretary Carol Murray has retired, and other staff members are moving on.

Holmes reported on the Golden Gate Dirty 30 footrace that took place on June 3. Several students, staff, and parents assisted the racers. Gilpin has participated in the race for the past nine years.

Gretchen Sechler is ending her two-year tenure as receptionist and Secretary to the Board. MacKenzie thanked her for her many contributions. Sechler will assume Carol Murray’s position as secondary secretary starting on July 31.

Seatbelts on School Buses

During public participation, parent Abby Kennedy requested that the Board consider outfitting the four most used buses with three-point seat belts. Kennedy related that a school bus is one of the safest forms of transportation, due to high seat backs, the height of the bus from the ground, and its slow rate of speed. With that said, she expressed concern about Gilpin’s school buses navigating mountain roads that contain blind spots, cliffs, and creek banks. She noted that preschoolers are transported long distances for field trips, citing a trip to Georgetown as a recent example. All of these factors increase chances for injury or fatality, Kennedy said.

She advised that the average cost to install seat belts in a school bus in Colorado is $8,000. Assuming a 12-year life span for a bus, the average annual cost would be $750 per bus, Kennedy said.

She said six states have some type of law requiring seat belts on buses. Colorado doesn’t require seat belts for school buses; yet the National Pediatric Association and the National Safety Council recommend them, as they decrease fatalities by 50 percent.

Kennedy added that settlement costs for accident-related lawsuits run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. There is a high emotional cost to families, drivers, teachers, and the community.

Taylor noted that several years ago, the Board had looked at the possibility of seat belts.

“Studies suggested that seat belts are more of a liability than an asset,” Taylor said. She mentioned the weight and height of younger students could be a factor in injury if the belts were not utilized properly or installed properly. She would like to see some results of studies before the Board makes a decision.

Kennedy responded that the main concern came with lap belts only, which posed a higher risk. She conceded that belts might hinder evacuation and that small kids may have difficulty using the belts, but noted that small buses utilized for preschoolers and special needs kids are all required by law to have seat belts and the children be able to use them.

She concluded that seat belts more often than not decrease injuries and fatalities in a collision and believed it imperative that the school district protect its children in the best way it could.

Holmes said Kennedy had a valid point but asked for time to research the issue and put it on the Board’s agenda.

“Our white bus does have seat belts,” he noted.

Budget Items

The Board approved the following items:

The supplemental budget for fiscal year 2016-17 for $11,593,666 and the appropriation resolution in the same amount.

The use of a portion of the beginning fund balance in the capital projects fund in the supplemental budget for fiscal year 2016-17 for $500,000 to be designated for capital improvements. The $500,000 is a contingency so the District does not go over budget. The plan is to spend only $400,000.

The adopted June budget for fiscal year 2017-18 for $10,997,866 and the appropriation resolution in the same amount.

The use of the beginning fund balance/reserves in the general fund and food service fund in the adopted June budget for fiscal year 2017-18 for $3,303,664. The District does not plan to spend the appropriated reserves of $3,303,664, and the planned usage for that amount is actually anticipated to be carryover to the next fiscal year.

The use of the beginning fund balance in the capital projects fund in the adopted June budget for fiscal year 2017-18 for $1,000,000 to be designated for capital improvements. The District plans to spend $500,000 of the fund balance/reserves and maintain a fund balance of $500,000 to be carryover to the next fiscal year.

The use of the beginning fund balance in the pupil activity agency fund in the adopted June budget for fiscal year 2017-18 for $82,729.

It was noted that the use of the beginning fund balance/reserves would not lead to an ongoing budget deficit for several of these items.

Summer Professional Learning

Secondary teachers will attend seminars on project-based learning and on Marzano’s 43 Key Instructional Strategies. Elementary teachers will focus on Orton-Gillingham math and mindfulness trainings.

School Safety

The Crisis Response Team visited the school’s evacuation site, the Gilpin County Road & Bridge garage. MacKenzie reported that Road & Bridge is prepared to serve their needs in case of evacuation. Accordingly, an evacuation might be done next year, the superintendent said.

Communications Report

MacKenzie said it is likely that the District will get a whole new website, one with audio added and that can connect to social media. Voice, text, and email messages could be sent through the website. If the decision is made to get a new site, MacKenzie wants it to be ready by next school year. The current site would be kept active while it is copied to a new site. The cost would be about the same as the District currently spends.

Track and Field Concerns

MacKenzie brought the Board up to date on site improvements. There had been a brief scare regarding costs when a gas line was located on the west edge of the football field. However, this was re-engineered, and Colorado Natural Gas can accomplish this with no additional cost.

MacKenzie is working with a track and field expert on a Request for Proposal. The track is to have six lanes, rather than eight, which Gilpin’s athletic director, Jeff Schuessler, feels will be adequate for Gilpin’s needs. The smaller track may mean that certain events would have to be run twice to allow for all runners to compete. However, this size track will not allow the school to host a state event, MacKenzie said. Additionally, there will be capacity for only 600 spectators and limited parking. Gilpin could host a middle school meet and a high school invitational meet. Conversely, an eight-lane track would cost more in excavation fees.

Boulter brought up his concerns. “We are spending a lot of money. I want to make sure we are not cutting ourselves short. We want to do it right.”

He mentioned potential issues with the shot put and discus events and said that Gilpin’s layout would not permit these events to be conducted at the same time as running events; otherwise, runners could be injured by flying shot puts and discs. Gilpin’s field would not have enough room for the shot put and discus to be held adjacent to the running track, but would have to be inside the track oval. He was concerned about the potential of damaging the field, as well as the extra time that would be required to finish all events.

“I don’t see us able to hold an event,” Boulter said.

Holmes disagreed, and MacKenzie said these questions could be asked in a meeting with the track and field expert and the architect.

MacKenzie moved on to the parking lot paving. The concrete company is late in coming but is supposed to come this week. The delay has put the parking lot about a week behind schedule.

The playground will be dismantled on June 19 and the new one installed on July 15.

MacKenzie mentioned receiving an anonymous complaint letter about the school’s pick-up and drop-off processes. He noted several changes that will be made: The door to the elementary school will be open in the morning and afternoon. It will be staffed, and there will be a whole lane for elementary drop-off. There will be a one-way loop there and another one-way loop by the atrium for safety. Buses will drop off and pick up in the circle again. The secondary will use the north loop, and the elementary will use the south loop. Directional and informational signage is planned.

Next Meeting

The next meeting will be on Tuesday, June 20, at 7:00 p.m.

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