Dodge City Public Schools to add early childhood classes for district patrons

Hannah Brown
Pratt Tribune
Dodge City Public Schools are making plans for the fall semester, including the additional of early-childhood classes to accomodate for 80 positions lost recently in the community.

The Dodge City USD 443 Board of Education met Monday, July 12 for their regularly scheduled meeting and learned that an early childhood program in Dodge City will be closing at the end of July, amounting to the loss of 80 slots.

Superintendent Dr. Dierksen has asked for a plan to be drafted that would provide 40 slots in two classrooms in building A for children from the district.

"There needs to be a fair system to see who gets in, because 40 new slots will not cover all 80 lost, but the community needs this," Dierksen said.

At the time of the meeting, the current kindergarten enrollment count was 417, but Dierksen said there are more appointments scheduled. Usually around this time, there are around 500 enrolled.

Dierksen reported to the board that three staff members have recently tested positive for COVID-19, and others are feeling sick. He said that it is not required that staff members are vaccinated or wear masks, but it is welcomed to those who feel the need for it. The board and Dr. Dierksen discussed other COVID-19 news regarding the school district and how if will impact the upcoming school year.

This was the first meeting of the new fiscal year which meant new officers had to be elected. Lisa Killion was reelected president and Tammie West was reelected as vice president. Other appointments and positions were approved as presented, including Pamela Preston and Ryan Ausmus as the Parks and Recreation representatives. Jamey Lewis-Gonzales as the Bright Beginnings Head Start Policy representative, Jeff Hiers as the Special Education representative. Ausmus will serve the district as the legislative representative. Tammie West and Traci Rankin are the Capital Outlay representatives. Pamela Preston is on the calendar committee. 

The board was pleased to recognize Alan Lopez, DCHS student athlete as the Kansas Gatorade Soccer Player of the Year. Lopez also maintained a 4.04 GPA in the classroom. This is DCHS' second player of the year winner.

DCHS soccer coach, Saul Hernandez, has been recognized at the National High School Boys Soccer Coach of the year by NHSCA. Hernandez led the team to a 20-0 season and a state title.

Executive Director of Business and Operations Hammer Russell reported that the district is in a good financial place going into the new school year. Some money from COVID-19 funding helped to cover the cost of laptops, so the district is ahead of schedule in that area. The board approved a motion to keep the total mill levy flat and publish the fiscal 2021-2022 budget.

The board also approved to pay the 79 employees who currently have a phone provided by the school a $50 a month stipend with each employee responsible for purchasing a phone.

Superintendent Dierksen reported that language arts textbooks will be disposed of by a local business as new textbooks are brought in this year.

He also said there will be a meeting with Debbie Cox at the Ford County Clerk's office to talk about revenue neutral items. It has been agreed upon that the Civic Center will be used for all elections in the future. The city manager will be at the next school board meeting to explain new things coming to the county that involve the school district, community college, the city, and the county. Russell has been working with bond agencies to refinance bonds. Dierksen said there is a meeting coming up that may help the district refinance bonds for a lower interest rate, which will save taxpayers money in the long run.

Killion gave several announcements: Enrollment opened online on July 10. On July 21 from 7 a.m.-2 p.m. and July 22-July 23 from 12 p.m.-7 p.m. is centralized enrollment at the Civic Center. On July 16 the all staff Long Branch Lagoon event will happen from 8-10 p.m. August 9 is the next BOE meeting at 6 p.m. On August 10 there is an all staff welcome at 8 a.m. at the Civic Center. School starts August 16 and August 23 is the second August board meeting at 12 p.m. The board entered two different executive session to first discuss negotiations and then personnel matters.