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Morris County USD 417

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    April Lunchroom Update


    We are getting closer to the end of school which means we are starting to clean our pantries and freezers.  Don’t be afraid we won’t have anything to “odd” but please be understanding if we have a quick menu change or the veggie or fruit of the day isn’t what it says on the menu we want to have the freshest of food for you all next year.  As we have the past 2 years we will be having our

    Summer Food Program.

    June 4th – July 13th Any child 1-18 is FREE to eat

    Monday – Friday at the High School

    Monday – Thursday at Prairie Heights

    So kids bring a parent and they can eat to for free as well.

    (1 Free parent with one child per visit)


    See you in the lunchroom,

    Becky Shearer

    USD 417

    Food Service Director

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  • Survey: Parents want to help kids learn science — but many have no idea how

    It can often be a challenge for parents who want to help their children with homework — not only because the kids may not want their help, but also because they may not be able to understand what the assignment actually is. This is common in math, where some parents have no clue about new ways of computing that are being taught.

    It’s even worse, it turns out, in science. A study asked parents about their children and science — and this post explains what was discovered. The study, “What Parents Talk About When They Talk About Learning: A National Survey About Young Children and Science,” was conducted by EDC and SRI International and commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education’s Ready To Learn initiative, led by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS.

    This was written by Shelley Pasnik, vice president of Education Development Center, a global education and health nonprofit.

    You can read the entire report here.

    By Shelley Pasnik

    Nine out of 10 parents say they do learning activities every day with their young children, but only about half of parents say these activities include science. Many parents say they don’t have the confidence or the tools to help their young children learn science. That’s what we found after speaking with hundreds of parents across the country.

    This is a missed opportunity. Early science experiences are key to children developing the important thinking and reasoning skills they will later use to become creative problem solvers. Previous research has demonstrated that parents are crucial when it comes to early learning experiences, but little is known about how parents of young children approach learning science.

    That is, until now. Our findings are included in a study conducted by Education Development Center and SRI International, “What Parents Talk About When They Talk About Learning: A National Survey of Young Children and Science.” In this study, my colleagues and I sought to find out what parents think about themselves, their young children and science, and we wanted to hear from parents in their own words.

    We conducted a telephone (cellphone and landline) survey of a nationally representative sample of more than 1,400 parents and had long in-person interviews and home visits with several dozen families, asking them about their attitudes, beliefs and practices related to early science learning. About two-thirds of the parents interviewed live in households where the income is less than $50,000. Everyone had to have at least one 3- to 6-year-old in their care.

    Here’s some of what we found:

    • Nearly all parents, regardless of income or education level, think it is important to help their young children learn, especially social skills, literacy and mathematics. What’s more, parents are active participants, with 94 percent engaging in learning activities such as reading stories or doing puzzles with their children on a daily basis.
    • Most parents (7 out of 10) say they are confident about their ability to teach their young children literacy, math and social skills. Fewer parents (5 out of 10) are confident about science. Only about half of parents engage in science activities, like exploring science outdoors or through everyday activities like cooking.
    • To do more science, parents want ideas and resources to build their knowledge and confidence. Seven of 10 parents say that knowing what young children need to learn and having ideas for using everyday materials would help them do a lot more science.
    • Many families say they use science media weekly or more — particularly videos or TV shows about science, yet parents may be missing opportunities to deepen the impacts of these experiences because while they say they are likely to monitor their kids’ media use, parents say they are less likely to help children connect the learning to their daily lives.

    All children, even as young as preschoolers, have the ability to engage in the building blocks of scientific inquiry: asking questions, generating explanations, revising predictions based on observations. And all parents, regardless of income and level of education, have the capacity to support their young children’s science learning.

    Family science also doesn’t require parents to have all of the answers. The point is to explore together. A mom, for instance, can help her son notice how dirt and mud are different from one another, calling attention to the movement of twigs, weeds and leaves and why some get stuck more easily than others. A dad can express his own curiosity about why birds and cats leave different tracks or take note of his daughter’s delight when a light wind churns up dust.


    The preschool years are the best time to take advantage of children’s natural curiosity and learning about the world. When parents feel confident about their abilities to support their children’s learning, they are more likely to dig in themselves.


    This article can be found on The Washington Post.

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  • Summer Capital Projects

    With school now started and most of the summer projects completed, I wanted to share with our district patrons what we did with our facilities and the costs of these projects.  The two primary sources for paying for these capital projects are our capital outlay fund and, for a couple projects, the district’s redemption fund.  The redemption fund consists of dollars remaining from the construction of the new addition to CGJSHS.  The primary purpose for this fund is to help us hold down the Bond & Interest mill levy in coming years but we can use a portion of these funds to correct problems with the new addition.

    In addition to tax dollars, our capital outlay fund (the primary source for facility improvements) also has revenue generated from “other local revenue sources”.  For 2016-17 that revenue included:

    • $4,700 in interest earned on the capital outlay account.
    • $39,000 on e-rate reimbursements from a prior year.
    • $50,000 from the resale of old computers.
    • $136,000 from an insurance claim on our roofs.
    • $61,000 legal settlement from the sale of the Dwight facility.
    • $6,000 in rental fees.

    As you can see, there is extra income that comes into the capital outlay fund in any given year.  Several of these “other sources” reimbursements were or will be targeted for a specific project.  In addition to these sources of additional revenue to the capital outlay fund, on July 7 we competed a 10-year lease purchase transaction for $500,000 for the purpose of building and renovating facilities at the stadium.  Here is a list of the work we completed this summer.

    CGJSHS Stadium – There were three projects that we completed this summer at the stadium.  The total cost for these three projects came to approximately $556,394.  $500,000 of this cost was paid for by the lease purchase dollars and the remaining came out of capital outlay funds.

    • One project was to repair the concrete bleachers including repairing spalling of the underside of the concrete, closing up windows and doors on the stadium, and weather sealing the upper side of the concrete bleachers.  The cost for this project was approximately $78,047.
    • A second project was to renovate the old concessions stand and restrooms into a new official’s dressing room and a new, larger storage space with a garage door for ease of use.  The cost for this project was $27,760.
    • The third project was the construction of a new concessions stand, larger restroom spaces, and a covered pavilion for patron use at stadium events.  This particular project had been targeted by the BOE for many years and in fact was one of the BOE goals for 2016-17.  The final cost for this project was approximately $450,587. 

    Installation of Pier System and Other Moisture Related Issues – In the spring we discovered that we had quite a bit of settlement in the NE corner of the CGJSHS north gym foyer.  To protect this from further issues, we installed 7 helical piers to support the foundation of this portion of the building.  To do this we had to tear out then replace the ADA ramp and we addressed a couple other items in the new portion of the school.  All told, the cost of all this work came to over $40,000 with more work perhaps to come.  We are still working on this issue.

    Stadium Locker Room & CGJSHS North Gym Foyer Roof Replacements – These were two of the oldest roofs on our district facilities, well beyond their respective replacement dates.  We put on a new Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO) membrane roof with new gutters and downspouts at each location.  The cost for this work came to $68,950.  It actually came in $10,000 under budget.

    CGJSHS Cafeteria, Halls, & Offices Flooring (New Addition) – This work became a necessity due to a constant moisture issue with the concrete floor pad.  Since the inception of this addition there has been a moisture issue that caused tiles to lose their mastic and pop off the concrete pad.  The new floor has a guaranteed moisture sealant as part of the epoxy floor system.  The cost for this work came to $112,785 and was paid for out of the redemption fund.

    Classroom Door Handle w/ Locks Replacement – As of this time, 99% of our classrooms in the district have a new, ADA accessible door handle with a push button lock on their classroom doors. We did this for both safety and compliance reasons.  The cost of this project was $48,993 and came from the funds the district received as a legal settlement on the sale of the Dwight facility.  We are now studying phase 2 of this project which is to replace all remaining door handles in the district with ADA compliant hardware.  The other major benefit in doing this is that we will have all doors within the district under one key system.

    Concrete Pad at PHES Playground – We extended the sidewalk in the rear of the school to reach the playground area and poured a decent sized pad for students to have to play on a hard surface.  We will enlarge this pad this fall as it was not quite as large as we first thought it would be (my error).  The sidewalk extension and the pad poured this summer cost $6,336.

    CGES Intercom System – The district replaced the old intercom system in the school and added a couple new speakers in areas where they were needed.  This cost $7,541.

    New (Renovated) CGJHS Science Lab – The classroom that has houses the junior high science lab is not really a science classroom.  To this end we have replaced the carpeted floor with tile, painted the walls, added electrical outlets and purchased new science tables for the room.  We have also contracted for new science cabinets/counter top space and two classroom sinks.  This is an on-going project that we hope to complete in the coming two months.  The cost for this work comes to approximately $63,000 when it is all added up.

    Other Summer Work – Other summer work (costs not included here) included:

    • Cleaned out drainage tubes at CGES;
    • Replaced the roof on the west portion of the former CGMS building and a portion of our house next to the CGES (defective product claim, cost us nothing);
    • Painted half of this same house as well as replaced rotting boards on the porch of the house;
    • Cleaned up and placed rock in several areas around CGJSHS;
    • Painted exposed wood on the roof trim at PHES, the lower half of the hallway walls at CGES, and the trim on the district office building;
    • Chemically washed the wall at the stadium with tuck-pointing yet to follow this fall.
    • Worked diligently to keep our grounds looking good throughout the summer.

    In addition to this we still have as unfinished projects to do a window system replacement for much of the district office.  We took bids for this work but I have decided to explore other options while we wait to re-bid this winter.  We hope to have more competition at that time for this work.

    As you can see, this was a very busy summer.  We have several projects planned for this school year as well.  Having said all of this, I want to thank our custodial and maintenance staff for their willingness to work around many of these projects.  They do a fantastic job getting our buildings and grounds ready for the school year.  Also, I want to thank Mike Gentry for all of the work he has done for our facilities.  Mike is leaving USD 417 to become head of maintenance at the Morris County Hospital.  Mike is a major reason that our facilities are in such good shape.

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Notice of Non-discrimination:   USD #417 does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age in its programs and activities and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: Doug Conwell, 17 S Wood Street, Council Grove, Kansas 66846 (620)767-5192