Skyline Schools: BOE deals with increased utility bills, hears about new exploration class for students

Billie Blair
Pratt Tribune
Skyline School students will have a chance to take day-long trips to unique Kansas destinations, such as the Sunflower Shrimp farm in Oxford, in the future as part of a new class called Explore Kansas.

The extreme cold in February impacted the gas utility bill at Skyline School in a major way. According to Superintendent Becca Flowers, the billing for that month was about three times what the state statute allows to be charged per unit. When the Board of Education for U.S.D 438 met on April 12, the decision was made to pay the statutory minimum amount of $4.57/BTU, then join other school districts in their gas consortium to contest the cost of gas billed them. 

Flowers said that she was aware of one school in their group that was billed around $60,000 for that one month. 

“It’s a combination of really cold weather where more energy was used and more expense was expected and the amount the gas company can charge legally, she said. 

According to Flowers and Michelle Domsch, Board Clerk, there is continuing consideration of a grant application begun some time ago regarding a Safe Room at the school. The application has been made to the Kansas Department of Emergency Management which is overseeing FEMA funds to build on to the east side of the school’s big gym to provide both locker room space and a place where students can go in case of a tornado.

The first two rounds of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (ESSER) have been received by the school district in the amounts of approximately $30,000 and $130,000. Flowers shared information about the possibility of a third round of ESSER Funds which may be the largest yet. 

“There are tight stipulations for the use of these funds in 16 categories,” she said.

 Budgeting is being done on the front side of receiving these funds, showing how they will be used.

Flowers said she was pleased with the summer school enrichment programs planned for this summer. There will be an ACT prep class to help students get ready for the ACT tests. This is, in part, to help students make up for lost time in school due to COVID. A book study is planned based on Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear. There will be some business classes offered, as well as Career Exploration in STEM. This class includes field trips to Wichita, Oklahoma City.

A class combining science and agriculture is called Explore Kansas. This class involves a day long road trip to places like the Konza Prairie, Cheyenne Bottoms, Coldwater Lake, Spare Produce in St. John, and Sunflower Shrimp in Oxford where shrimp is being grown in Kansas. Students will get to explore these places, then have time in the van for discussion and computer writing and research.

Families have been informed of these programs via an email sent directly to them.

Domsch said the school has relied on the advice of the Pratt County Health Department throughout the pandemic. The school has recently decided, based on the health department’s information, to discontinue the wearing of masks in school.

A facilities update was provided at the meeting, including the fact that new carpet was recently laid in three classrooms. Projects for the summer include: a new roof, work on the HVAC system and the Main Office ceiling. The board has also applied for a Highway Patrol Grant to upgrade the camera security system.

Other business included the approval of the 2021-2022 school calendar, a request for quotes for a new school car and bus, and personnel matters.