With the summer break more than half-way over, thoughts turn quickly to the start of the new school year. But over the summer, the Chadron Public Schools District has been plenty busy with projects, the most visible of which has been the parking lot located behind the Chadron primary and middle schools. The parking lot had fallen into severe disrepair, with several cracks and potholes that not only taxed vehicle tires and shocks but also created large puddles and icy areas.
Superintendent Ginger Meyer said the parking lot is coming along fine. The project almost immediately after the end of the year, around May 20, with a 60-day timeframe. However, work was also done on the Chadron Primary playground to help with drainage issues but work remains on schedule and engineer David Coe has signed off on much the completed work.
Meyer doesn’t expect the rules of the lot to change with the coming school year, but she has been visiting with Josh Stadler in maintenance about possibly putting in driving lanes or some speed bumps. There should be enough compaction and a thick enough overlay, she added, that busses will still be able to use the lot.
Thought the parking lot is certainly the most visible maintenance project this summer, Meyer also spoke to improvements within the buildings. Carpet has been ripped out at Chadron Middle School, replaced with luxury vinyl tile. “You don’t have to wax it, like we do the other tile,” Meyer said. Chemicals are not needed either, as it can be cleaned simply with a large broom and/or squeegee. The middle school project is on the district’s rotating list of building carpet and floor projects to do when money is available.
Meyer is also appreciative of being able to pay for the tile project in installments, as it makes it easier on the district budget.
At Chadron Intermediate, where the computer lab was there are some new walls going up to provide new classroom space. This work is being done by the building maintenance team.
Cardinal fans will have some new seating for outdoor events with the installation of new bleachers. Meyer noted the district maintenance staff will take out the old bleachers, as well as the old track shed on the hill. The company providing the new bleachers will install them.
“We’re hoping that’s before the first home [football] game,” she said. “We might not make the scrimmage, but hopefully the home game.” Though the initial proposal for the bleachers did not include seat backs, Meyer pointed out there will be backs on a couple of the rows.
Aside from the major projects, the general maintenance and some of the paraeducators take care of cleaning the buildings. “Every building gets a once over,” Meyer said. “We do some refreshing with painting, some maintenance and some landscaping.” Vehicles are also checked out to make sure they’re ready to go.
As for what the 2021-22 school year will be like, Chadron saw huge success last year in spite of the pandemic with being able to keep classrooms open, though masks were required and several students took advantage of the at-home schooling options available.
“Our plan will stay mostly the same,” Meyer said. One of the changes is when the school district is at the Green level teachers will not be required to disinfect every desk every period. There will be no mask requirements in the buildings, and water fountains will be usable. “When we’re in green, it will be a lot more relaxed.”
Information was also received from Panhandle Public Health District, Meyer said, that when the agency is at its Yellow level masks are still optional. “We never used the word ‘required.’ We always used ‘expected,” Meyer said of the 2020-21 school year mask directives. “We’ll probably tweak that language a little bit too.”
Use of hand sanitizer will also be highly encouraged by students and staff.
The option for remote, at-home learning will no longer be available. However, the district will still have a few spots available in the Acellus online program, but those will be primarily for credit recovery. She noted there were a couple students who were able to earn their diplomas over the summer through credit recovery online, helping the district overall graduation rate.
Helping ease the financial burden for families during the pandemic year was the extension of the USDA’s Summer Meal Program through the entire school year. Under this program, Chadron Public Schools students received free lunches. This benefit will extend through the upcoming year, though it’s important to note that the free meals are for the main meal. Second helpings and additional items will still cost extra.
Meyer said it’s important that people continue to fill out forms for Free and Reduced Lunch, as these are how the district gets qualified for Title I funds, and the after school programs are based on the forms.
Meyer is excited to get the school year going. “It’s always nice to have people in the buildings,” she said, but with the perseverance of the students last year and the summer full of activities she’s hoping they can find some down time before classes start up again.