Considers adding snow days to calendar
The Plumas Unified School District board of trustees is looking into returning to a past policy where three “snow days” were added to the school calendar. The board discussed the issue during its Jan. 18 meeting.
To add snow days, the school year would have to be lengthened by three days and it was thought that it would be best if calendar days were added in the fall, at the beginning of the school year.
The board noted that 60 percent of students are on campus before school starts in the fall anyway for sports and other activities. Whereas, it is harder to hold students’ attention at the end of the school year and many students might not even attend makeup days if they were at the end.
Snow days can be used for any circumstances that would require the administration to close schools. Unused snow days would be taken off some time during the school year.
District staff estimated that it would cost $53,000 a day, plus payroll’s time to process checks, to pay staff for teaching each additional day outside their contract.
Outdoor education center
Rob Wade, the outdoor education coordinator for the Plumas County Office of Education, presented a vision and plan for using the now vacant Taylorsville Elementary campus as an outdoor education center.
The primary use for the center would be for overnight stays during extended fieldtrips, instruction before going in the field and the storage of field equipment.
The proposed center would be operated in conjunction with the Sierra Institute, which would staff the center and supply field gear.
Judy Dolphin and her students in the culinary arts program at Feather River College would provide food for the center during overnight stays.
Initial costs would include getting the heating and other support systems up and running. Showers and other facilities, including perhaps a larger kitchen, would then need to be added.
According to Wade, the annual operating cost is estimated to be $23,000, based on the previous costs of running the site as an elementary school.
Presenting the existing floor plan of the school site, Wade explained how different rooms would be used. He also presented a plan on how use of the center would be ramped up over the next five years.
Wade proposed that the incoming seventh-grade class use the center for a week next fall, with those students fresh from their sixth-grade outdoor watershed experience. Wade said their stay at the Nature Center could act as a “boot camp” for getting students used to the increased work expected of them in junior high school.
He proposed that use of the center would be increased by a week each year, so that by the end of five years, the center would be used for four weeks each year.
Wade also proposed that the center be rented out for use by schools in urban centers so they could see where their water and wood comes from.
He suggested that other groups might use the center as well, and that the center could also be used for teacher training, art classes and as a community center for Taylorsville.
The board and district staff discussed the need to apply to the state for another exemption from a state requirement that schools spend 50 to 60 percent of their school budget on teachers’ salaries each year.
Ron Logan, high school teacher and president of the Plumas County Teachers Association noted that the district has asked for this exemption for the past three years. He asked that the district consider increasing teachers’ salaries to help meet the required targets.
The board noted that with so much money being spent on facility upgrades, which can’t be spent on other items, it was hard for the district to reach the mandated proportion of spending on teacher salaries.
The district is going ahead with an application for the engineering stage of using wood biomass to heat buildings at Quincy High.
The project is expected to cost $300,000. The district’s portion is expected to cost $100,000, and part of that can be paid in-kind. The district doesn’t have to make a final decision on the project until June.
The Quincy High campus was chosen for this project because its boilers are old and in need of replacement anyway.
The staff discussed actual versus projected budget expenditures so far this year and the results of the independent audit performed for 2015-2016. No serious problems were reported.
The board and staff also discussed Governor Brown’s new budget proposal and how it would affect Plumas County. No serious changes were expected to this year’s budget.
Safety and emergency plans
The board approved the school system’s comprehensive school safety and emergency action plans. Copies of the emergency action plan are posted on the back of each classroom door and are immediately available if there is an emergency.
Rose Buzzetta, who has a granddaughter in school in Chester, encouraged the board to defend teaching students about the value of diversity and to not allow funding of public schools to be diverted to fund private schools.