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MPS board studying smaller bond issue than previously discussed

Mustang Public Schools’ Board of Education discussed changes possibly coming to the district in the spring semester at their Monday meeting.
The spring 2021 bond will be brought to the board at the Jan. 11 meeting.
Superintendent Charles Bradley said the bond resolution will cover improvements to student education, such as more electronic devices and operational items.
It will possibly be between $4.2 million and $10.9 million, which is significantly smaller than previous bonds. The last bond that was going to be brought to the board for about $60 million did not happen, due to COVID-19.
Bradley said the most important issue the bond would address is having devices for all students throughout the district, or what they call a 1 to 1 ratio. If the bond falls between $4.2 million and $5 million, Bradley said it would not cover device costs.
Residents would vote on the bond April 6, 2021. If the bond passes, devices could be in students’ hands by the start of the fall 2021 semester.
Currently, the district has about 6,000 devices in circulation for students. Within the next two years, Geromy Schrick, executive director of technology, said MPS must replace the majority of devices because most will be end of life, as many can no longer be updated to meet technology standards.
In 2021, about 700 new devices will have to be added, and in 2022, about 5,800 devices must be purchased to replace all that have hit their end-of-life mark, while reaching a 1 to 1 ratio. The devices used throughout the district are Chromebooks and iPads.
Second through 12th graders use Chromebooks, while pre-kindergarteners through first graders use iPads.
“Our intent is to provide every child a device, whether they stay in the classroom on a daily basis or whether they’re going home with them …,” Schrick said. “We would prefer to provide them a device, so everybody’s working on the same platform, we have full manageability, and we can control and maintain those systems as we move forward.”
As of now, parents won’t have to pay any insurance fees, he said. There will also not be internet access included with the devices once they’re taken home by students.
All devices are currently on warranty for accidental drop and protection, Schrick said. Moving forward with purchasing new devices, Schrick said they will look at if that is the avenue they would like to keep, or if families will pay a deposit fee for their device.
Bradley said they have looked at having a 1 to 1 ratio for several years; however, with past bond issues, the money has gone toward buildings.
“Had we already had a 1 to 1 in place, the transition to distance learning would have been much easier,” Bradley said.
Despite conflicts with the pandemic, Bradley said this plan will be helpful after the pandemic.
Additionally, with a 1 to 1 ratio, students would no longer have access to devices that remain inside classrooms. They would be responsible for bringing and taking home their device.
“I don’t think there’s a district that borders Mustang that’s not already 1 to 1, regardless of size,” Bradley said.
Several years ago, the district purchased more than $2 million worth of devices to become a 1 to 2 ratio.
As of now, Schrick does not know the plan on what grade levels will take devices home.
The district will continue to look at textbooks and maintenance needs with the bond, as well, but the devices are expected take about half of the cost.

Enrollment update

In a discussion about spring enrollment numbers, it was reported that most students have chosen to stay, or switch to traditional learning.
Mustang High School’s numbers are always changing, Ryan McKinney, assistant superintendent of secondary education said. However, as of last week, there was an increase of 7.5% of high school students changing to all virtual, while 14% changed to blended learning, which is a mix of traditional and virtual.
While the district has seen an increase in students since the beginning of the semester, at the middle school level, there was a decrease of four students.
McKinney said they have some spring applicants that are still coming through, and that they will work with families. Teacher staffing might have an impact regarding if a family wants to change their enrollment again when the spring semester begins.

A-B possible change

MHS is also looking at adjusting their A-B schedule in the spring. Currently, cohort A attends school Monday and Tuesday, while cohort B is on campus Thursday and Friday.
All students are distance learning on Wednesday for campus cleaning.
While the current schedule allows for safety measures, there have been issues arise, such as technology barriers and less in-person instruction time, McKinney said.
Principal Kathy Knowles said there is also a lack of student engagement, due to not being face-to-face with teachers. To combat this, Knowles wants to change the days students are on campus.
In the spring, students in cohort A would be on campus Monday and Thursday, while cohort B will be in class Tuesday and Friday. Wednesday will remain the same.
“Our whole purpose here in changing this schedule is so these kids are not without in-person instruction with a teacher for that long of time,” Knowles said.
She said many teachers are on board with the schedule change, as well as students.
“It’s all about getting comfortable and use to it,” Knowles said.
She also said staff and faculty are constantly thinking about the trauma students face throughout the pandemic.
“Trying to keep everybody safe, trying to keep everybody mentally healthy, trying to keep everybody educated — it’s unbelievable,” Knowles said.
She also reminded families to reach out to her and their student’s teachers when a conflict happens, so they can keep the student’s best interest in mind.

Financial updates

In financial news, the district has not received their ad valorem taxes, as the county has not sent them out yet, in order to give residents more time to pay their taxes, Chief Financial Officer Nancy McKay said.
McKay said in state funding, charter schools have taken money away from public schools.
“Every child has a different need, but there’s not a level playing field,” McKay said. “If those charter schools had to abide by the same guidelines as public schools do, then we’d all have a level playing field.”
If a student enrolls in a charter school, they cannot unenroll until after the Oct. 1 child count. McKay said when this happens, some students have returned to public schools, but state aid is not following them, rather the charter school gets to keep the money.
“There’s nothing fair about that when we’re educating them the rest of the fiscal year,” McKay said.
This year, McKay calculated that charter and private schools will take away about $73 million from public schools. Roughly, there are 56,569 students across the state. Of those, 53,289 are enrolled in virtual charter schools, while 3,280 are enrolled in traditional classrooms.
While MPS typically receives about $36 million in state funding, they will most likely receive about $2.5 million less this year.
McKay said she’s hoping the district will receive more federal funding to alleviate some struggles.
The district’s independent auditors could not attend the meeting, due to weather. They will be present at the Jan. 11 meeting.
The board also approved having Master credit card accounts payable services, in place of writing checks. McKay said the cards will not be distributed to everyone throughout the district, rather if a staff or faculty member needs one, they must check it out through the finance department.
The cards will be used internally for travel purposes. Staff and faculty will eventually have a training session about how to use the cards.

Public participation

In public comment news, David Gallion, father of four MPS students, spoke to the board about stepping away from federal and state guidance regarding COVID-19 safety measures.
“I’m not denying the virus is real and dangerous, it is so, but asserting that the more we comply with lockdowns, closings, mask mandates, the more sick we become and the more our freedoms and civil liberties will erode,” Gallion said.
The resident also said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance is not the same as previous health advice in former pandemics. He siad dating back to the 1918 flu pandemic, the CDC advised the same protocols of limiting public gatherings, as well as quarantining before a vaccine was developed.
“With what we do as a board and as a district, we have to balance safety and education,” said board President Chad Schroeder. “Some of what was said was way outside of our purview … I just want to be clear; this board focuses on education and safety together. We can’t separate those.”
Disagreeing with moving away from safety measures, Schroeder also said the district’s guidance comes from the state and county health departments to make the most informed decisions.

ISQP update
As of Monday, no students had signed up for the in-school quarantine program. There were several staff members who expressed interest, Bradley said.
Also, as of Monday, Bradley said the district had not received tests for the program. He is not sure where the state health department stands regarding supplying the tests if no students volunteer when the program technically ends Dec. 23.

Data updates

In data news, the board discussed looking at the nine zip codes MPS services and seeing how many cases are in each. The district would then look at school, county and state data to determine the best decisions for students.

Consent agenda

In consent agenda news, the board accepted a $52,000 donation from Walmart for school supplies.

Student news

The board also approved new courses to begin for the 2021-2022 school year.
• Intermediate Science of Technology;
• Intermediate Medical Detectives;
• MHS AP Physics I;
• MHS AP Physics II;
• MHS Applied Choral Music;
• MHS Unified Nations;
• MHS Introduction to Leadership;
• MHS Intro to Animal Science;
• MHS Intro to Horticulture II;
• MHS Intro to Ag Communications;
• MHS Accelerated Spanish 2.
The district also recognized more students, as part of their Mindset Matters program, which highlights positive character.
• Mason Kirby at Centennial Elementary;
• Kylan Bailey at Creek Elementary;
• Carson Spruill at Lakehoma Elementary;
• Journee Harvey at Mustang Elementary;
• Jett Homer at Prairie View Elementary;
• River Wood at Riverwood Elementary;
• Mason White at Mustang Trails Elementary;
• Judge Brewer at Mustang Valley Elementary;
• Addison Hambright at Canyon Ridge Intermediate;
• Keedan Martin at Horizon Intermediate;
• Harrison Green at Meadow Brook Intermediate;
• Krystal Avila at the Mustang Education Center;
• Akzel Dominquez Garcia at Mustang Central Middle School;
• Hailey Henderson at Mustang North Middle School;
• Samantha Gray at Mustang Middle School;
• Jayla Young at MHS.

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