Preschool program pops up for BSSD

Optional masks, parent teacher conferences, and new policies at school board meeting

A new preschool program, optional face masks starting in 2022, and parent teacher conferences highlighted the Big Sky School District (BSSD) board monthly meeting last week.

Superintendent Dustin Shipman started off the evening with updates on enrollment and the use of face masks as a mitigation strategy for COVID-19. Shipman planned to send out a survey to the community over the holidays to gauge masks becoming optional after the break. Since BSSD stopped testing, six students and two staff have tested positive and notified the school.

Part of the reason BSSD is considering moving away from mandatory mask use is because vaccines are now available for kids 5-18 years old and other Montana school districts are switching to optional use after the break.

Marlo Mitchem, principal for Lone Peak High School and Ophir Middle School, presented next and pointed out some returns to normalcy across BSSD. For example, Mitchem referenced parent teacher conferences in-person, the 10th graders' DC trip after a twoyear delay, and the ongoing competition between grades for attendance during home basketball games.

The Ophir parent teacher conferences saw a large turnout, according to Mitchem. Parents reported thoughtful, prepared, and insightful meetings with the teachers. Conversation also broke out among board members about how well the tenth graders responded to the DC trip. LPHS will start a new tradition of bringing sophomores to Washington, D.C. rather than eighth graders.

Next up, an unidentified member presented on the elementary school’s parent teacher conferences, the return of Ms. Jenks to the library, and the fifth graders air quality monitoring program. The fifth graders recently took over the air quality control program and every day they hang a color-coded flag outside based on the readings.

For winter sports, basketball is underway. The girls and boys varsity programs are both 2-4. The middle school boys teams recently wrapped up winning seasons with record participation. The girls middle school basketball team will host its first game on Jan. 3.

Treasurer Corki Miller and construction lead Cristie Tate provided updates on funding and construction bids for the new stadium. Board member Stacy Ossorio also read off a series of new policies suggested by the Montana School board. The most important policy was 3100, which allows the district to enroll students in the community that are less than five years old and receive full funding. Board members and staff voiced support and excitement for establishing a preschool program at BSSD.

The board wrapped up the meeting with an update on the new Strategic Plan facilitated by Skip Kotkins. A few weeks ago, a 15-member group made up of past and current board members, administration, students, parents, and community members sat down for two days to come up with a vision of the future of the Big Sky School District.

After 11 hours of conversation, the group produced four points:

1. Flexible Pathways: dynamic programming to make sure we build on the current IB program and expand elective opportunities within the community.

2. The District Voice: communicating at school, in the community, and in-between.

3. Living Our Culture of Excellence: talking about student leadership, promoting spirit with administration, student component, and making sure we are giving people opportunities to lead culture

4. Two Way Flow: how school interacts with community and how community acts with school.

The next BSSD meeting will be held on Jan. 11, 2022 at 3:45 p.m. 

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