ROYAL CENTER – Pioneer Regional School Corporation will be bringing them home.
After years of transporting students with learning disabilities to Logansport’s school corporation, Pioneer Superintendent Charles Grable told the board Tuesday that the arrangement will no longer work.
According to Grable, Logansport’s program has been growing, so there is no room for additional students. Therefore, the three Pioneer kids, along with those from Caston and Eastern Pulaski, will hold the newly approved Life Skills Program classes at the junior-senior high school in Panther town. The program will focus on helping students learn skills necessary for personal care and how to be independent, including understanding how to cook, clean, and pay bills.
Space between the school’s art and agriculture rooms will be renovated, said Grable, adding that the robotics class will move upstairs. He anticipates a need for two rooms with the possibility of a third down the road.
Prior to the start of 2021-2022’s school year, the new classrooms will receive updated carpet and tile as well as a new sink and changing room. Handicapped-accessible stalls will be installed at each of the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms by the band room.
In addition to these changes, the board approved the hiring of two special education teachers and three aide positions. The aides will be paid at least $12.50 per hour, said Grable, explaining that this is higher than the usual pay scale, but due to the number of students who would be attending, responsibilities would be greater than a typical aide’s duties.
Cost of the Life Skills Program would be shared by the co-op, which includes Pioneer, Caston, and Eastern Pulaski.
Board member Denny Herd questioned if this move would be beneficial, especially where funds are concerned.
Grable assured that the benefits would pay off in the end. Not only would the money that is currently being paid to Logansport Community School Corporation come back to Pioneer since the students would stay within their district, but the program would have room to expand, providing an avenue for additional monies.
The school also could be receiving additional economic stimulus funds soon, said Grable. The application for the approximate $390,000 funds is due by May 14. Then, it’s possible that a third round of monies would be available at an estimated amount of $700,000.
Grable said discussions would need to be held to determine how to use the dollars, but he believes efforts to bridge the learning gap caused by COVID-19 may be most feasible. Each of these stimulus packages is a one-time funding event, so spending must be appropriate for all concerned.
Consideration of school improvements is one area that even students are promoting.
As part of Laura Duke’s government class, six students took on the topic of implementing a weighted grade point average (GPA).
According to Duke, the students are seniors, graduating in May, and therefore not affected by such a system. “They’re doing this for future students.”
Applying a weighted GPA takes into consideration the difficulty of coursework, Kinsey Odom told the board. It also would reflect a student’s academic drive and ability better than a system without the weighted grades.
“People who take advanced courses can be ranked lower than people who take normal courses,” she explained, adding it would help students have a better chance of getting accepted to college or earning scholarships.
Plus, said Kynzie Bullock, it would encourage students to enroll in more advanced courses. If implemented in August, then by the time the class of 2026 are seniors, the entire school would follow a weighted system.
Courses affected would include English, science, math, foreign language, and agriculture, Brianna Schmaltz pointed out.
A position for a full-time elementary school dean was approved. Principal Beth Stansbury said discipline and behavioral issues have grown in the last year. Having a dean in place, who would oversee such concerns, would provide much-needed help to the teachers, she said.
Stansbury explained that the issues have risen to the forefront, leading her to focus on offering a professional development day to address social and emotional needs of students. “A lot of kids have trouble with emotions and they need behavioral support” because many come from low-income families with poverty concerns or other situations that are linked to behavioral distresses. So, additional training would help staff better understand where students need the most attention.
Pioneer Junior-Senior High School Principal Jeff Brooke said Senior Awards Night will be held on Wednesday, June 9, with the Top 10 honors recognition at 5 p.m. and the overall program beginning at 7 p.m. The ceremonies will be held in the back gymnasium.
Graduation is set for 2 p.m. June 13. Additional details will be released closer to the date, said Brooke, adding that due to popular demand, a parade for the graduates is in the works.