By Tim Leeds
Last night at the Havre Middle School members of the Havre Public Schools administration presented the final information forum scheduled before the Board of Trustees takes a final vote on the restructuring of the Havre schools at their April 10 meeting.
Superintendent Kirk Miller presented an overview of the planned restructure, then opened the floor to questions to "try to get to the bottom of a solution to what that question may be."
Some of the questions raised by the audience regarded the busing necessary to switch the schools over to grade-level schools from the current neighborhood grade schools. Under the plan, all kindergarten through first-grade students will attend early primary school at Highland Park School, all second- and third-graders will attend primary school at Lincoln-McKinley School and all fourth- and fifth-graders will attend intermediate school at Sunnyside School. Devlin School will be closed entirely.
Miller and Ginger Zanto, director of transportation for the district, said they have been working on a plan to transport the students to the schools they need to be at. Zanto said many programs and procedures that will help in the transition are already in place.
Miller said 17 percent of the K-5 students are already bused to schools other than those in their neighborhoods. Some of this is by the family's choice, he said, and some is forced by the makeup of the schools.
Zanto said the bus drivers already keep tabs on the students that need to switch buses on the route and notify the other driver when the student isn't there and so on. She said they already have radio communication between the drivers and with the bus office, so that can easily be used once the grade-level schools are started.
She said if the plan works, in the city most students would still be picked up at their neighborhoods and taken directly to the school, but there would be some switching between buses, especially with students coming in from out of town.
" there would be some switching, yes, as we've been doing for several years," Zanto said.
Zanto said they might implement a bus card system for the students, where each would have a card listing their pick-up and drop-off points so the drivers could easily make sure the student is on the right bus and know where they need to be. She and Miller both said the Havre parent-teacher organizations could be very helpful to get the program implemented and running smoothly in the beginning.
Director of Operations Ric Floren said that they would probably implement breakfast programs, as currently is used at Lincoln-McKinley, in all of the elementary schools. He said it is a very successful program.
"We're anticipating breakfast programs at all of our K-5 schools," he said. "I won't tell you they make money, but we don't lose money."
Havre Middle School Principal Vance Blattar said cutting athletics to save money was one of the first things they looked at at the middle school. He said the most they could have saved by eliminating the program would have been $10,000, and they felt that with the number of students participating, it would havebeen a negative impact for the amount saved.
Miller and Havre High School Activities Director Charlie Klimas said that the proposed pay-to-play fee for participating in high school activities would not change the way the programs are run at all. Miller said that paying to participate would not guarantee playing time, or even prevent being cut from the team. Miller said the current proposal would require a $25 fee to participate, with a cap of $50 per student no matter how many programs they participate in, and $100 per family.
Klimas said they have been studying how other schools have implemented the concept to tailor Havre's use of it.
"We have the great benefit of several years of pay-to-play in Montana," he said. "We're one of the last to do it."
Miller said the most important thing is doing what's best for the Havre students, and making the transition easy for them.
"The nearest thing to heart is to take care of the kids," he said.