School board eyes threats, mold, approves music credit change

School board eyes threats, mold, approves music credit change by M. Jill Karolevitz Bomb threats at Vermillion High School, and mold and a gas leak at Austin School were among the topics of discussion during Monday night�s meeting of the Vermillion School Board.

�We�ve had three bomb threats at Vermillion High School recently and one person has been caught, with appropriate action taken,� said Superintendent Robert Mayer. �We�re thinking it will be necessary to change our policy and procedures regarding bomb threats.�

That may include adding a day on to the VHS calendar for every bomb threat that is called in, he said. A change in the phone system, adding caller identification, is also an option.

When a bomb threat is called in, the building is evacuated so that the police and fire departments can check the entire area, including all lockers.

�We do this every time,� Mayer said. �We don�t fool around with it or take any chances. Once the building is declared safe, we bring the students back in and resume classes. But this summer or fall, there should be a plan for changing part of the procedure.�

A gas leak at Austin School on May 2 forced Mayer, in the absence of both elementary principals who were out of town, to move students and staff to Vermillion Middle School.

�The construction crew hit and ruptured a gas line that was capped off almost immediately, but the smell was horrendous,� he said. �The kids were evacuated to to middle school, where they were very helpful to accommodate us. The building was then aired out over night and things were back to normal the next day.�

In emergency situations that require evacuation, Austin students normally go to the Clay County 4-H building, but it was in use on the day of the gas leak.

One parent did call Mayer after the incident, wondering why parents couldn�t be called in a similar situation in the future.

�There are 300 students at Austin,� he said. �It would be nearly impossible to call each of their parents,� hence the evacuation procedure.

Regarding Austin�s mold problem, the school board accepted a $1,444 bid from Ace Landscaping to redo landscaping under the unit ventilators around the building. The bid includes bringing the ground up to grade, adding drain boxes to pipe roof runoff underground, edging and mulch. This is in an effort to alleviate dirt and dust from being sucked up through the ventilators as they are running.

Scott Hanson, building and grounds director for the school district, reported that there is some water intrusion in the school�s boiler room.

�We found it after the last school board meeting and a week after we found it, the health complaints started popping up again,� Hanson said. He will seek bids on installing drain tile in the boiler room to divert the water to sump pits and help alleviate the problem in the future. In the meantime, the water will be cleaned up by his staff.

Hanson also introduced Roger Johnson, of Air Care, West Fargo, ND, who discussed his company�s recommendations and plans to clean ductwork at Austin School, another measure to combat mold problems.

Air Care provides both video and still photo documentation of its work � before and after, Johnson said. In addition, after the cleaning is completed, Air Care instructs in-house staff on how to continue maintenance.

�If the area is maintained right, you won�t need our services for a long time,� he said. �In-house people can handle it.�

Twelve classroom unit ventilators will be cleaned, along with ductwork and its associated equipment in the gym.

Air Care uses a robot with a video camera to clean ductwork and document the procedure. It also coats areas where mold is present with special sealants. Steam, as opposed to pressure washing is used.

�If you use a pressure washer, there is a possibility of disturbing more microbial elements and forcing them into the air,� Johnson said. He added that once the cleaning is completed, �the air moves better, there is better temperature transfer and better quality air.�

School board member Jim Kinney suggested taking air samples prior to the cleaning project to help measure its outcome. Johnson, however, noted that air testing involves many factors and could be a costly procedure. He suggested using the building occupants as a �test.�

�Assess the complaints from the people in the building,� Johnson said. �Once it�s handled, see how they feel.�

Following discussion, the school board approved the $14,997 bid. The tentative start date for the cleaning work is the second week in June. Another round of tests to determine the presence of mold will be conducted by Geotek, after school starts again in the fall.

�This is the place to start,� said Tom Craig, school board president, of the upcoming project. �Then we can re-evaluate the situation and see where to go from there.�

VHS band and choir students will receive more credits toward graduation following the school board�s approval of recommendations made by John Alpers, music curriculum chair, and Mayer.

Instead of one-half credit each for band and chorus, with a maximum of two credits, students will now receive one-half credit each for band and chorus per semester, with a maximum of eight credits that can be earned over four years. The change will be in effect for two years, starting this fall, followed by an evaluation by the school board.

Alpers said the increase in credits toward graduation will help in the retention of music students.

�In the past, they could have their graduation requirements fulfilled in the first year, and may just give up after that. This will help them stay in the program,� he said

Mayer agreed with Alpers and added that the change won�t affect attendance in other electives.

�I don�t view music as extracurricular,� he added. �I view it as part of the entire curriculum � it�s academic preparation because students can get degrees in music.�

In other business, the school board:

? Set a preliminary budget inservice from 5 to 7 p.m. at the administration building prior to the June 11 school board meeting at 7 p.m. in city hall;

? Will look into how the school district�s website can be improved;

? Approved the purchase of new accounting software and related equipment for Lunchtime Solutions, which operates the school breakfast and lunch programs for the district;

? Held a first reading of a policy change that will result from Lunchtime Solutions� new software (new methods for reminding students of low balances);

? Held the second reading of the school facility rental policy;

? Decided to continue with Howard Willson for school ground weed control;

? Accepted open enrollment requests from two Wakonda students for next year;

? Recognized Sheila DeSmet for her honor as state School Business Official of the Year as designated by her peers;

? Heard an North Central Association report from Liz Hogen, outlining a recent peer review.

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