School board moves closer to drug testing
Van-Far Superintendent Chris Felmlee
The Van-Far R-I School Board took its first steps in adopting an official drug testing policy for the district after a first reading of Policy JFCI during its special meeting held on May 29.
Board members reviewed the policy and procedure for student drug testing during the meeting.
The policy includes the testing of all students in any MSHSAA activity.
During last week’s meeting, Van-Far Jr./Sr. Principal Cindy Pirch confirmed the testing pool would include band students.
After three readings, the district will take a vote on whether to officially adopt the policy for Van-Far.
“The focus is solely on keeping kids safe,” said Van-Far Superintendent Chris Felmlee.
“We’re not looking for an I gotcha moment. We’re just trying to keep kids safe and it gives another excuse to keep kids drug free. And the other side of that is employment. Look at how many jobs in our community alone have drug testing. This is another way to help get kids ready for their careers. If spending $5,000-$8,000 annually keeps our kids safe, it’s well worth it. It’s a wise investment.”
While the board members discussed the drug policy, board member Jim Hopke said he would like to see the district become a tobacco-free campus and his fellow members agreed.
Superintendent Felmlee said he would contact the MSBA Policy Department for a policy to be implemented by the district.
In the June meeting, the board members will likely hold a reading for such a proposed policy. Signs would later be posted throughout the campus and more information would be provided to The Vandalia Leader to help inform the patrons of the change. Information would then be included in the student handbooks.
With its school bus fleet having an average age of 11.76 years, which is up 6.8 years of age from 12 years ago and over the statewide average of 7.6 years, the district voted to purchase five new school busses last week.
The board accepted the Midwest Bus Sales, Inc. bid to purchase five new 2014 Thomas Saf-T-Liner C2 71-passenger school busses totaling $403,160. The district now seeks bids for tax exempt lease purchase financing with a term of amortization of five years.
The new busses allowed for the district to trade in older vehicles dating back to 1995.
Superintendent Felmlee said the district just scored a 100% safety rating and the purchases will help the district keep that status.
“This is another way to maintain that 100% rating with the new fleet of five busses,” Felmlee said. “It’s a good move for the district and we can finance it over five years so it’s not so much of a financial impact. That’s a true testament to our transportation department. They’ve worked hard to maintain a safe environment with the resources we have.”
Transportation Director Charlie Stroker informed the board that the district already owned several Thomas busses and said many parts used would be the same, if needed, giving the district more savings.
Warranty work for the Thomas brand could be made at a service shop in Palmyra.
All of the new busses would be assigned to country routes and the vo-tech route.
It was noted that IC units have been high maintenance and are more expensive to have repaired.
District talks budget, gets $150,000
The 2013-2014 tentative budget was presented to the board and did not reflect any significant reductions or increases.
A 9% decrease to the AEL budget was given for the correctional facility as determined by DESE. Currently, the preliminary budget shows an $82,037 deficit. The reserves are sitting at 23% and it is not expected for the 2012-2013 budget to affect the percentage.
Superintendent Felmlee did tell the board that the district was set to receive $150,000 after the government collected fines for more than $1 million from Teva Pharmaceuticals in Mexico, Mo. Superintendent Felmlee said he hopes the board might consider using some of that money to partner with Community R-VI for a school resource officer.