North Tama board talks lunch, facilities

The North Tama Board of Education welcomed new Junior/Senior High School Principal Jeromiah Bliss to his first board meeting on July 19 since taking on the role in early July.

Bliss reported he’s been attending early morning workouts at the high school weight room and having conversations with students to gain an understanding of their thoughts and concerns headed into the new school year.

Bliss said a consistant concern he’s heard has been regarding the atmosphere among students in the lunch room.

“For a lot of students, the lunch period can make or break your day,” Bliss said. “That’s your midpoint and everything thereafter is dictated by that.”

Bliss put forth a proposal to alter the lunchroom procedures to increase staff presence during lunch and adjust how students are brought in and dismissed from the lunch room.

Another proposal Bliss introduced was in regard to the secondary handbook policy allowing open campus for certain high schoolers during lunch. He said the current policy presented several minor concerns such as students going elsewhere other than home during the lunch period, a lack of equity between the students living in town and those in the country who are not able to participate in open campus currently and potential liability for the students traveling around town during the lunch hour.

Superintendent David Hill added that a majority of districts he’s observed or communicated with do not have an open campus policy during lunch for high schoolers.

Hill said he speculated the policy was a holdover from the Traer High School era when the school didn’t have a lunch room and students living in town would all go home for lunch.

Bliss felt that requiring all students to spend the lunch hour on campus would address the concerns and allow for better and more efficient student oversight during that period in the school day.

After hearing the proposal during Bliss’ principal report, the board later took action to approve the lunchroom procedure changes in the student handbook and to close the campus during the lunch period unless students provide a medical reason they need to leave campus.

Progress continues as the North Tama district works through its facility study and potential facility improvement project.

At a special meeting on June 16, the board approved an agreement to purchase a residential property that connects to the southeast corner of the North Tama campus.

The property at 600 Main St. was sold to the North Tama district by Jesse Martinez, who has owned the residence since 2014. The agreement lists a purchase price of $98,500 and an anticipated closing date before Sept. 1.

Hill said at the board’s regular meeting the opportunity to purchase one of two remaining private properties on the block where the school campus was located was unique and could be advantageous to future development given the landlocked nature of the school.

In the immediate future, Hill said the district’s plan is to lease the property as a residence until a long-term solution is determined as part of the ongoing facility study.

The board will hear from the architecture firm conducting the facility study at the next regular board meeting on Aug. 16 at 7 p.m.

The firm will present a series of facility improvement project options for the board to consider. Hill said the presentation will be mostly informational, with an opportunity for further in-depth discussion at a special board work session on Tuesday, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m.

The project options coming before the board in August will be based on the information gathered during the facility study and will not be detailed information. Once the board determines which project(s) to pursue, another phase will take place where detailed pricing, project estimation and renderings will be supplied to help the board determine a target budget and to understand exactly how the project could be done.

In other business…

The board approved new staff appointments including Claudia Velez-Rice, Spanish Teacher; Kirstie Seda, Para-Educator; Melissa Bliss, 6th Grade Teacher; Shannon Degener, 1st Grade Teacher; Nancy Monat, Safety Patrol Sponsor; Dylan Rohlfsen, Dance Team Sponsor; Jen Boerm, Junior High Student Council Sponsor. The board approved one resignation from Associate Tammy Wendt.

The board approved a sharing agreement with the Gladbrook-Reinbeck School District to share the contract of a curriculum director. Previously, Maegan Meister was employed in the shared role, though her contract was held by North Tama. Meister resigned the position earlier this year.

The new agreement will reverse the arrangement with Gladbrook-Reinbeck

Legislative priorities were approved to submit to the Iowa School Board Association. The North Tama priorities approved by the board included school funding, mental health, supplemental state aid and teacher leadership and development. A separate resolution was also recommended by board member Dave Calderwood for a statewide broadband connectivity and access initiative addressing high-speed internet access in rural areas.

The board approved a project agreement with the Iowa Department of Transportation on funding to replace one school bus. The funding, in the amount of $33,000, will come through the Volkswagen Settlement Environmental Mitigation Trust and will require the school to decommission one of its oldest school buses that does not meet current emission standards.

The board approved a milk bid from Anderson Erickson and a bread bid from Bimbo Bakeries.