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R-9 board approves 2020-21 levy increase

By Jenny Allen

The Harrisonville R-9 School Board approved the district’s levy, discussed food service and eliminated the district’s pay-to-ride school bus service during its Aug. 25 meeting.

The board also gave special recognition to Jill Filer, the district’s director of communications and community relations who received the 2020 Distinguished Service Award from the Missouri School Public Relations Association (MOSPRA).

Following a public hearing regarding the 2020-2021 tax levy prior to the meeting, the board approved a 40-cent increase in the levy, taking it from 5.0772 per $100 assessed valuation to 5.4772 per $100, assessed valuation. The breakdown is $3.9 for the Incidental/General Fund, $0.5 for the teachers/special revenue fund, $1.0772 for the debt service fund and $0.0 for the capital projects fund.

In other business, Assistant Superintendent Jason Eggers discussed the district’s food service program saying the program faces unique challenges this year. He said starting in March, traditional food service was suspended. However, the district served more than 75,000 meals through the use of waivers from March through the beginning of summer.

Eggers told the board the kitchen at the middle school does not meet the space needs for the new requirements for prep work and said the kitchen will be updated with funds from the bond district patrons approved earlier this year.

Opaa!, the new food management company for the district, prepared the meals throughout the shutdown and has purchased a fruit and veggie bar for both the high school and middle school. He said they also purchased a cart for serving breakfast in the hallway at the high school.

To meet COVID-19 guidelines, elementary students are eating in the cafeteria, but the middle school and high school students are eating in their classrooms. Middle school classes have runners to bring the food back and high school classes are dismissing students at five-minute intervals to pick up their food.

Using waivers, parents can also order lunches for students enrolled in virtual learning. Eggers explained, “We have created hangtags to put in the cars coming to pick up food so that we can get the correct food order to each student.” Eggers went on to explain that the website, http://www.nutrislice.com, lists the menus for each day. “It helps track what kids think they will eat so we can adjust menus as needed. It also lists the nutritional information for every item on the menu and allows students to order the food they want. As an app on your phone, it is the future of ordering your lunch for the day.”

Superintendent Paul Mensching gave a Strategic Plan update. “Financially, we have used the first allotment and will be going into the second. On the instructional side, we had two plans in place for Alternate Methods of Instruction (AMI), which helped when COVID hit.” He went on to explain the state now requires an AMI-X plan for all virtual learning with COVID and the district’s AMI-X plan was just approved.

Mensching said an issue with the chiller system at the middle school was discovered and said condensation on the insulation will need to be mitigated, but there is a limited window between the cooling and heating seasons to do so. “At least now with the approval of our AMI-X plan, we could shut down if needed and go virtual while the work is being done,” he said.

The board also discussed the current pay-to-ride transportation policy. Eggers explained that due to the COVID-19 social distancing and contact-tracing guidelines, the district is trying to keep the number of students on each bus low. Other restrictions will include bus riders only being allowed one pick-up and drop off location. “In other words, a student can no longer be dropped off at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s on Tuesday and Thursday but ride home the rest of the week,” Eggers said.

Board Member Bing Schimmelpfenning asked about the possibility of adding a separate bus for the pay-to-ride students, but Eggers said it would be cost prohibitive.

Board Member Nancy Shelton then asked, “How many kids does the pay-to-ride policy affect?”

Eggers responded, “It really only affects three to five students.” Mensching agreed, “Most families are not aware of the program because most school districts do not offer
one.”

A parent of a pay-to-ride student attended the meeting and wanted to speak in favor of keeping the policy, but because he had not signed up in advance to speak at the meeting, he was not allowed to comment.

The board voted 6-1 in favor of suspending the pay-to-ride policy for the 2020-2021 school year with Schimmelpfenning casting the dissenting vote.

As it stands now, students who live less than one mile from the school will need to walk or provide their own transportation.

The board recognized the following donations and stated their gratitude for the generosity of the donors: tools and lumber from Leonard “Len” Lynch of Lee’s Summit to the Cass Career Center construction program; two masks for each student from the State of Missouri; 73 face shields, 73 ear savers and 47 masks from Heather Caldwell; 2,500 water bottles for students from Huddle for H20 – Kody Cook; and 1,500 lanyards for elementary students and all staff from the Harrisonville Public School Foundation.

In other business, the board:

• Approved out-of-district tuition rate of $11,000 per year.

• Approved Newkirk Novak, Lenexa, Kansas as the construction manager at risk for construction projects throughout the district.

• Approved a bid from Elite Fence for the perimeter fence project at McEowen Elementary School in the amount of $30,025.

• Approved the district’s sexual harassments policy, procedure and forms as presented.

• Approved a resolution to establish an account with PMA Financial Network LLC to manage the investments for the bond proceeds.

• Approved a revision in the school resource officers contract to change the maximum hours and correct the hourly amount of overtime.

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