The construction projects present throughout the district presented a unique challenge to begin the school year. If you add to that continued student growth and the relocation of the Therapeutic Education Center/Lariat Away program, as well as parts of Bright Beginnings and the Dodge City Education Center, you have all the makings for a disaster.
Instead, everything went smoothly.
"We had a really good start to school," Assistant Superintendent Dr. Glenn Fortmayer said. "Everything just went really well."
Dodge City Police Department was on hand to help direct traffic around Northwest Elementary, Dodge City Middle School and Beeson Elementary.
"They provided outstanding support for schools where construction forced changes in the flow of vehicle and pedestrian traffic," Fortmayer said.
Right before school started, DCMS implemented a drop-off and pick-up lane on the north side of Morgan Street to help alleviate the traffic entering the main parking lot so it’s the only access to the school during construction.
"We’ve had a lot of good feedback from parents," Fortmayer said.
At the Aug. 28 luncheon meeting at Beeson Elementary, USD 443 Board of Education President Lisa Killion asked if the lane would become permanent, even after construction is concluded. Fortmayer said the district may approach the City of Dodge City to see about making it a permanent addition.
According to Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education Tami Knedler, Northwest was the biggest concern at the elementary level when it came to traffic and parking.
"Even though it’s a bit on the slow side, it went smoothly," she said. "Everything went a whole lot better than we anticipated."
In other business, the board approved requests for an additional paraprofessional at both Linn Elementary and DCMS. Linn is currently a three-section school; however, in June, numbers at the second grade level were low so the decision was made to transfer one teacher at that level to Wilroads Gardens Elementary to fill an open position at that school.
"In an effort to not have to keep rolling subsequent years from three sections into two sections and constantly having to shift people around, we gave permission to enroll past our normal cut-off of 23 students per class," Knedler said. "Now those classes each have 28 in them. If families want to get into Linn, we want them to be able to do that but also provide some additional support to teachers to make sure those are manageable numbers."
At DCMS, there are currently 41 "Newcomer" students. Those with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education (SLIFE) make up the majority of students in the Level 1 and Level 2 classes. Because of the large class sizes, some Level 2 students have been moved to Level 3 classes prematurely.
"There isn’t enough adult academic support to serve student needs," Fortmayer said.
All district schools reduced the number of paraprofessionals last year, as a result of the Affordable Care Act. The district decided each principal could hire back as many paraprofessionals as their building budget would allow. However, DCMS is $9,000 short in covering the cost of the para. That money would come from Bilingual Education funding.
"There are five languages spoken in this classroom alone," Fortmayer said. "That requires use of pictures, body language and other ways to communicate, and that takes time and personnel. That’s why we are requesting more support in that program."
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Fred Dierksen toured the program recently.
"The need is dramatic," he said.
The next Board of Education meeting is Sept. 11 at 6 p.m. in the Austen Auditorium.