Masks optional at BSSD
Phase two of the BSSD expansion project runs into trouble again
The Big Sky School District (BSSD) board and faculty gathered on Feb. 15 to discuss the bids for phase two school expansion, spring sports, counseling and mental health and the transition from mandatory to optional masks.
MASKS OPTIONAL IN SCHOOL
Superintendent Dr. Shipman explained the district reached out to staff and parents asking for feedback on masking. There was an overwhelming response in elementary and middle school to remove masks or make them optional, explained Shipman, who said there was high turnout.
Most folks felt like it should be a family’s decision over a school mandate at this point during the COVID-19 pandemic, although two email responses did not agree. Part of the reason for the move to optional, explained board chair Loren Bough, was because of vaccine eligibility for younger kids.
By and large, the community expressed gratitude and appreciation to BSSD faculty after 24 months of uncertainty, mask wearing, and navigating a pandemic, explained board member Kara Edgar.
Thanks to a private donation from the community, BSSD will undergo a security analysis from Sugar Fox Security this spring It’s too good of an opportunity to pass up, explained Dr. Shipman.
The audit will be the first time the school district will be evaluated on its safety protocols, protections, and policies. Sugar Fox Security regularly works with larger entities. They produce a report at the end of their inspection, suggest best practices, and identify top priorities.
PROJECTED DROP IN ENROLLMENT
The district, although growing every year at 3-4% student rate, is expected to drop from 419 to 404 students next fall.
COVID-19 initially created a bump in student numbers, explained business manager Corky Miller, who pointed to enrollment in the spring of 2020 at 390 students. Some of the families who have come, left, explained Miller.
Dr. Shipman pointed out the district, however, expects 20 children to join the K1 early enrollment program. Enrollment is available to children three years of age with a disability, or children four years of age or older on Sept. 10.
BBALL WRAP UP & SPRING SPORTS
The basketball season wrapped up for Lone Peak High School last week at the district tournament. Led by head coach Loren Bough, the Lady Big Horns finished the season 10-11 and the boys finished 3-16. Five seniors will graduate this year.
The Ophir Miners girl’s basketball team is putting together a dominant season. They have two more games against Home School and Anderson next week before they head to the rural district tournament in Monforton.
Spring sports are scheduled to start on March 1. James Miranda is coaching track, Libby Grabow is coaching tennis, and Jenny Wilcynski is coaching golf.
Students participating in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program should be busy the next few weeks, according to Tim Sullivan, advisor for the program. The seniors recently completed their mock exams and will be submitting their IB portfolio work soon. Juniors will be preparing for their tests during the second semester and sophomores are encouraged to apply.
PHASE TWO EXPANSION BID
Cristie Tate, a representative hired by BSSD, explained that over 70 contractors submitted bids for phase two of the expansion project on Jan. 13. Unfortunately, all came back over budget again.
Previously this school year, the board decided to delay phase two of the project because all bids came back over budget due to increased costs from COVID-19.
The idea of waiting a year failed miserably, said one board member. With prices up dramatically, the district is trying to figure out ways to scale down the project and build it in stages to reduce cost.
Phase two is supposed to include a 14,000 square foot lab, a 25,000 square foot gym expansion, and a septic field.
To comply with the Internal Revenue Service, 85% of the bond amount must be spent within three years of funding. “The clock’s ticking,” explained business manager Corky Miller.
Through funding from the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation (YCCF), Janet Martinez joined Abby Wright and Erika Frounfelker—the BSSD counseling team—part-time.
“Over the past two years, kids’ mental health have been at center stage,” said Martinez, who has had an immediate impact. The counseling team met with all 107 middle school students in the first semester.
Wright explained a lot of folks blame the pandemic on higher amounts of anxiety and depression in kids. She explained the fragile state of students started before COVID-19. Tech has decreased a lot of emotional coping abilities, explained Wright, who pointed out too much access to technology for kids.
K1 ENROLLMENT COST
The school district is applying for $55,000 from Resort Tax to help cover the K1 early enrollment program start up costs. They hope one of the local foundations will also match the donation.
The next BSSD meeting is scheduled for March 15, 2022, at 3:45 p.m. Catch it virtually or in-person.