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The Buena Vista School District Board of Directors began their Monday, Dec. 13 session with a brief executive session, returning to their regular session at 6:08 p.m., beginning with the Principals’ Reports. The meeting held updates from school principals, an update on student mental health, and announcements of potential district property sales.

Christine Bailey, Chaffee County High School Principal, shared gratitude that CCHS students had offered before their Thanksgiving Lunch.

Emily Madler, principal of Avery Parsons Elementary School, discussed “commercials” that students had created based on the 13 colonies, as well as a fifth-grade math assignment where students planned a “Dream Playground” to practice fractions. First graders had Christmas Around the World, where they learned about Christmas in different cultures, and Elementary Administrative Assistant Shandra Nelson made a brief video for second graders on how to be safe, responsible, and respectful on campus.

Buena Vista Middle School Principal John Emilsson shared seventh-grade students’ projects on Touching Spirit Bear and the middle school band’s concert. He wrapped up his report with a brief update on the school staff’s book study on Grading for Equity by Joe Feldman.

Liz Barnaby, principal at The Grove, explained how they’ve been creating a culture of optimism for students and staff, including staff peer evaluations and students’ endeavors to grow plum plants. The school is also partnering with Mini Blessings to help students learn about internal control.

Principal Jon Ail of Buena Vista High School brought Math teacher Steve Kuennan and some of his students in to discuss their Introduction to Engineering class. In addition to the projects they’ve done this semester, they’ll be going on a few field trips next semester and will be competing in the Science Olympiad.

Superintendent Lisa Yates reported that she’ll be serving on the board for Colorado House Bill 1330 on higher education and service-learning and that she held the Spring Emergency Response Meeting with the team.

Youth Mental Health

Yates stated that the district is seeing very low COVID-19 rates, with one case at The Grove and two at Avery Parsons, and the response team had zero COVID needs as of Dec. 13. Yates also said that a big focus for the district is continuing to support students’ mental health throughout the ongoing pandemic and going into the winter.

“Our community likely hasn’t experienced the magnitude of the youth mental health impacts, because we worked so hard to bring routine and connection and learning,” she said. “However, our children need more hope, and we cannot continue in the same state of not giving them hope for the future…They are inundated in the media and burdened by feelings like the climate, social issues, race issues, disrespect in our government, a question of this illness, continuing forever is their burden to bear alone because we as adults aren’t giving them a different story. Certainly, if we take school away, they don’t have the option to discuss it in the constructive ways that our schools are able to do.

“My advocacy in this county (our school district in particular) just feels more emblazoned than ever that at least there are others who are noticing now and naming that this long response that we’ve had to COVID is having serious impacts on students,” she continued. “We are thankful, so thankful that COVID isn’t just popping up as we saw it through November. But it doesn’t mean that there’s not a crisis that we’re dealing with everyday.”

Board Training and CMC Questions

Board member Tracy Storms thanked the district for allowing the whole board to attend the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB) conference. Board member Brett Mitchell took a moment to thank Principal Emilsson for the work they’re doing on grading and said that he felt the presentation mirrored standardized testing in the schools. Mitchell also discussed some of the technology at the CASB conference, like a virtual reality tool that could support the Industrial Arts program.

For correspondence, Mitchell commented that a community member asked him in the grocery store what the impetus was for “the issues Buena Vista has with CMC.” President Suzette Hachmann responded that there was a service area complication that isn’t the fault of Buena Vista or CMC but instead is connected to the service area and funding complications.

“It is complicated and messy,” Yates explained. “It used to be a Chaffee County issue, and so the other things became elevated when unfortunately the county became part of the tax district in a timing that we couldn’t keep up with.”

There was no other correspondence, and there was no public participation.

In his Monitoring report, Mitchell found Superintendent Yates to be in compliance with B/SR-5, which monitors Superintendent performance, and board member Stacey Moss found the board in compliance with GP-6, relating to Board Policies. Board member Tracey Storms found the board in compliance with GP-7, which relates to committee structures.

The minutes from the November 8 and November 29 were both approved, and the consent agenda was approved unanimously. The board also approved the IKF Graduation Guidelines with a few revisions, and the rest of the CASB Policy Updates were approved as well.

Property and Program Update

In her report on the Chaffee County High School (CCHS) Property and Program Update, Yates said that the location and programming changes cause the most questions. Some options include an addition to the Sprung building or a rental space in town. A third option would be using the current Grove space if The Grove moves to a modular.

Yates said they’ll also have a meeting with CCHS students after winter break to discuss the shift and the key components of CCHS for the students. Yates said that Bailey emphasized the importance of the one-week module structure and the sense of community at CCHS. Yates also said that their goal is to make sure every staff member at CCHS will have a position with the district, at CCHS or otherwise.

Mitchell took a moment to thank Principal Christine Bailey for what she does with CCHS.

“Christine, we appreciate you,” Mitchell said, “and everything you’ve done with CCHS and getting it moving and going and working with what you’re working with….We really hope we can help you and you can help us do what we can to protect the kids that need to be protected.”

The board also moved to approve the contract to buy and sell property with Fading West Development for the Archway Property. The motion carried unanimously. On November 8, the board moved to present a counteroffer for the purchase of the Nathrop Schoolhouse, which carried unanimously, and to move forward with contract negotiations for the CCHS campus at 623 Main Street, which also carried unanimously.

Lastly, Hachmann reported that the committee has been looking at a potential buyer for the McGinnis Gym and the Administration Building and shared a letter from potential buyers Katy Welter and Rick Bieterman.

“Following several positive and productive conversations with district representatives and preservation professionals,” write Bieterman and Welter, “we are still invested in the concept of renovating and preserving the historic properties for district use, with the ultimate goal of leasing and selling the properties back to the district.”

Bieterman and Welter also wrote that they expect to be prepared to present a purchase agreement for the board’s consideration in January of 2022.

The board adjourned at 7:49 p.m. The next regular meeting will be held on Monday, January 10th, 2022, at 6:00 p.m.