School board hears elementary school highlights

On Nov. 29, Lander County School Board held their monthly meeting at the Mary S. Black district office building. The trustees heard elementary school highlights, presented by Principal Lorrie Sparks.

Sparks discussed the current state of affairs with the elementary school, including the students’ current test scores. She said the "Read by Grade Three" program is helping students who are under the 40th percentile in reading to improve their reading skills.

“With the exception of kindergarten and first grade, all of our students, second through fifth grade, are right on the money for where they need to be at the beginning of the school year,” explained Sparks. She pointed out that part of the challenge for kindergarten students is that this is the first time they have taken the test and a lot of them do not even know what a computer mouse is.

The principal said math scores look good and reading scores are even better. The 'Read by Grade Three' program works with 33 percent of kids kindergarten through third grade who need help, according to Sparks. She added that the reading strategist, tutors and teachers are all working hard to reach students and help them with their reading.

Sparks expressed her excitement about how close Battle Mountain Elementary School is to achieving a four-star school rating. She said a glitch resulted in the state rating the school as having 100% chronically absent students. She disagreed with that assessment and noted the school gave away two bikes to students with perfect attendance in May this year.

After Sparks' presentation, superintendent Dan Lantis recommended that the school board approve a variance which would allow students in Austin to attend a school outside the community. The board of trustees voted unanimously to approve the variance.

The board then heard from Principal Toby Melver, who took the responsibility of being the principal for Austin schools. Melver discussed a plan to correct issues with the school in Austin.

“Right now Austin isn't a viable K through 12th-grade school and we need to redefine what Austin schools are going to be,” said Melver. “My recommendation is to make Austin schools a kindergarten through sixth-grade school and bus the remaining older students to Eureka County for school.”

Melver said another option would be for parents to send their kids to school at Round Mountain. He said Eureka County School District would likely be happy about this, because the new bus route will help them pick up students they are currently paying for travel to their school.

Melver said he would like to see a town meeting held in Austin. He and Mr. Lantis could explain what they are planning to do. "We need to tell them we want to make Austin a kindergarten through sixth-grade school and make it the best kindergarten through sixth-grade school we can,” Melver said.

The new plan appeared to be well-received by the board of trustees. They agreed this idea is the best step forward for Austin schools. The school district plans to continue to discuss possible solutions with the town of Austin. Melver and the school board said the presence of the school district is essential to the people of Austin and said the district is planning to have a more significant presence in the area.

The board also approved the payment of bills and warrants.