By JEROD CLAPP
After more than half a decade of enrollment decreases, Greater Clark County Schools announced an expected increase of 100 students for the new school year.
At Tuesday night’s board of trustees meeting, superintendent Andrew Melin said preliminary numbers indicate more students are in the district’s schools.
“Frankly board, our enrollment at this point is up. The past six years, we’ve had enrollment declines of over 100 students a year,” Melin said. “At this point in time, we’re going to be up we think at least 100 students. There’s been a big change we’re pretty proud of moving forward.”
While the increase in the student population brings in more money for the district, it also caused a couple of hiccups in the first week of school.
Amy Schellenberg, executive director for educational services, said the district’s initial purchase of 8,000 Chromebooks — computers for the district’s one-to-one initiative — included extra machines needed in case some were sent in for repairs.
But with a student population topping off at 8,022 in grades three through 12, she came to the board with a request to purchase another 430 machines.
She said the vendor they used to purchase the first round of computers, DDI Leasing, had a wait time of several weeks on any Chromebooks because of hardware issues. The district spent about $3 million with DDI Leasing.
Instead, they chose to purchase the computers from another company, Promevo, at a cost of $119,970.
The board passed the motion unanimously.
But Melin also said the increased student population may have caused some traffic headaches at schools for parents who pick up or drop off their students. He said each building is working to resolve those issues.
The board also passed two new policies to curb the use of unpaid days off from employees.
Sandra Lewis, general council, said last school year, the number of unpaid days taken throughout the district, including all employee groups, was more than 610 days.
She said as the board worked on the policy for the past year, concerns about excluding unpaid medical leave, family medical leave act and other absences were raised by employee unions.
After working with transportation, teacher, para-educator, cafeteria and other employee unions, she said the policy is a “kinder, gentler version” than originally planned.
But she said it still addresses concerns of making sure the needs of students are met by every employee.
“We believe that first and foremost the change in policy will help in encouraging the staff in total, not just teachers, that kids are first and they are of primary importance,” Lewis said.
Tony Hall, board member, said he’s concerned the policy could hurt employees who aren’t abusing their right for unpaid days off.
“In my mind, I don’t think our teachers need a policy to say that kids come first,” Hall said. “I believe all of our teachers in Greater Clark are saying that kids are coming first. It’s a shame we have to have a policy because we’re dealing with five percent of our whole staff.”
The board passed the policies 5-0 with the abstention of Hall.