By Sue Moore
Air quality improvements at Sunset Elementary School were still on the minds of Vicksburg school board members at their July meeting. Complaints had surfaced in the spring with a teacher getting sick and several students reporting illness attributed to being in suspect classrooms.
“We’ve met with the Kalamazoo County Health Department and parents over the last few months, trying to address their concerns about the air quality at Sunset,” Assistant Superintendent Steve Goss told the board. “We still haven’t been able to identify the exact problem. We have had a plan in place to replace all the carpet at the school that was installed in the 80s and 90s. The air quality issue has accelerated the timeline for us. We propose removing all the carpet and replacing it with tile in all the classrooms.”
There is asbestos in the form of mastic under the flooring so it means extra abatement work. Bids were sought with the lowest coming in at $441,000. It involves an aggressive time frame to have the work done no later than the week before school starts in September, Goss explained. The board approved the expense with the money coming out of the 2014 bond fund that has been set aside for technology. The fund still has $1.2 million which is expected to be used with technology upgrades in 2019 along with the flooring replacement. The main office and the library are the only rooms in Sunset that would not be replaced with the new surface tile, which Goss said would be easier to clean and maintain. “Carpet collects all kinds of things, some of which might affect air quality,” Goss said.
In other business, Superintendent Keevin O’Neill reported that the school has 185 new kindergarten enrollees thus far. “This is a fluid number for next year with 231 total expected in the Begindergarten and kindergarten program. The class of 2033 looks to be a good sized one if this enrollment holds,” O’Neill said.
The superintendent also recommended a Home School partnership agreement with Lighthouse, a for-profit company headquartered in Marcellus. The home school students would come from outside the Vicksburg school district and take online courses in elective classes. They would be taught by Lighthouse but accredited through the Vicksburg district. “This is about helping kids,” O’Neill told the board.
The idea had been presented in June but there were still a lot of questions to be answered before the eventual unanimous vote in support of the recommendation. The district would hire a certified director at $25,000 who would monitor the students’ progress throughout the year. In return, Vicksburg would see a small financial impact by registering up to 130 students, each at one half full time equivalent student. This number is prorated depending upon the number of total credits for the year. A projected net income to the district would be $130,000, Goss told the board.
By taking electives through Vicksburg, it helps home school students have a broader array of classes that colleges want when deciding admittance for kids. It is felt they would benefit from a broader selection of classes than just the basics they might get from home schooling, O’Neill said.
Josh Baird, president of the Vicksburg Athletic Boosters organization, gave an updated report on his group’s activities. He emphasized the need to spend money on the emotional needs of student athletes and not just the requests for equipment that they often support. The Boosters monetary contribution is a big part of why this community has never had to go to a “Pay to Play” for athletics, Baird emphasized.