P-C will pay more to play sports, take classes in Jefferson

By ANDREW MCGINN

a.mcginn@beeherald.com

It may actually be easier to persuade North Korea to denuclearize than to convince the Paton-Churdan Community School District to enter into whole-grade sharing with its neighbor to the south.

And based on discussion at the Dec. 19 school board meeting in Jefferson, the diplomats who make up the Greene County Community School District board of education are tiring of the ritual courtship dance.

The Greene County board that night approved a new, two-year agreement that continues to allow P-C students to participate in select sports and take certain high school classes in Jefferson.

But P-C will pay significantly more to do so: $25,000 per year versus the $6,700 it has been paying, according to Greene County Superintendent Tim Christensen.

That ups the price, per athlete per sport, to $597.76 from an estimated $143 in past contracts.

P-C also will no longer be allowed to share a sport one year and then field its own team the next if it suddenly gets an unexpected increase in participation.

The new contract dictates that once a sport is shared with Greene County, it remains shared.

“We’re tired of going back and forth,” Greene County board member Sam Harding said.

During recent negotiations, P-C indicted it’s willing to share volleyball, basketball and track.

In academics, P-C will pay 95 percent of general education high school classes it wants to take in Jefferson, and 100 percent of career-technical classes and upper-level math and science courses.

Undoubtedly emboldened  this fall by an enrollment increase of 18.10 students — keeping in mind that the P-C Class of 2018 was all of 11 students, and two were twins — Paton-Churdan remains almost defiantly opposed to reorganization.

Greene County board members reported that the mere mention of whole-grading sharing is a nonstarter in negotiations.

Mark Peters, current president of the Greene County board, said he foresees problems with P-C when the new regional career academy opens in 2020 at the site of a new Greene County High School.

Peters said he wants to ensure that Greene County students get first dibs on registering for classes at the career academy, which will be in partnership with Iowa Central Community College.

P-C students already are crowding out Greene County students in some upper-level high school classes, it was reported.

When asked if scheduling is more difficult at the high school because of the current arrangement with P-C, high school principal Brian Phillips didn’t mince words.

“No doubt,” Phillips said.

The board last week also had lively discussions on student driving permits and naming rights on buildings.

The board at a future meeting will mull issuing school permits to underage drivers who live less than a mile from school.

Currently, per state guidelines, a student must live at least one mile from the high school to qualify for a school permit. But, as Peters reported, there’s been a request for a school permit from a student who lives less than a mile away to participate in early-morning weight lifting.

“We’ve created that issue by having weight lifting at 6 in the morning,” Peters said. “And jazz choir, and jazz band.”

Other board members are more hesitant.

“I would be against the school permit thing at all,” Harding said. “I’ve seen too many kids abusing it.”

Board member Steve Karber, who lost a niece to an accident  in which a school permit was abused, said that the permits are already overused.

Karber said that if the board grants exceptions to the mile rule, it would need to be for an early morning or late afternoon activity, not regular school attendance.

“Every kid wants a student permit,” he said. “They all want to drive before they’re ready.”

A board subcommittee of Peters and John McConnell was tasked with developing guidelines for granting exceptions.

With two new buildings on the district’s horizon, the consensus among board members is that nothing will be named for an individual — no matter how much money they may donate or what they’ve accomplished.

Karber suggested an area inside the new high school to honor donors.

For one thing, the district has received legal counsel discouraging naming rights. But in Jefferson, the memory of Harold Hill-esque maritime attorney Leonard C. Jaques is still very much raw.

“I got talked into that Jaques thing and hated it from the get-go,” Harding said. “I would never want to put someone’s name on a building again.

“I hope we learn from it.”

The elementary school in Jefferson was originally christened Jaques Elementary School when it opened in 1991 — in honor of a successful Jefferson native who funded the building’s computer lab and then made a “gentleman’s agreement” to support the school in perpetuity.

No more money was ever seen, and when Jaques died in 1998, the school wasn’t in his will, either.

His name was unceremoniously stripped off the building in 2004.

That experience alone is likely to doom a growing effort by alumni to have the new high school’s performing arts center named in honor of the late Jack Oatts, Jefferson’s legendary band teacher.

In other news at the Dec. 19 school board meeting:

• The board approved early-retirement applications for three staff members: district technology director Tim Buenz, kindergarten teacher Ann Ostendorf and elementary P.E. teacher Lori Danner.

The district has made a practice of asking longtime employees to voluntarily step aside to save money.

When Buenz, Ostendorf and Danner retire at the end of the school year, they’ll take with them a combined 100 years of service.

• The board approved the low bid of $154,600 from Lansing Bros. to demolish the closed school building in Grand Junction by May 24.

Lansing Bros. previously demolished the Rippey school building.

• Bids for the school construction project will be let Jan. 17 and due in February, Christensen said.

Harding reported that after finding themselves over budget on the project, the board was forced to downsize the buildings and eliminate certain elements to get the project back on track.

It was reported that geothermal heating and cooling isn’t likely to be installed in the new high school because the investment wouldn’t reap benefits for 50 years.

“Natural gas is cheap, and looks like it’s going to be cheap in the future,” Karber said.

But, he added, there’s talk of incorporating solar energy into the new buildings. Karber spoke of the possibility of initiating a cooperative solar project with nearby local businesses.

It’s possible, he said, that with the architect’s approval, solar panels could be installed on top of the new school buildings.

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