The following are actions and discussions by the Yelm Community Schools Board of Directors and district officials during a regular meeting on Thursday, June 25, which was held online via Zoom video conferencing.
• Through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), Yelm Community Schools is eligible for about $1 million in relief funding. The district could begin spending about 80 percent of that funding starting in July. Chief of Finance and Operations Toni Brittain said the district has already started work on purchasing several thousand masks, as well as hand sanitizer stands, gloves, face shields, and other health and safety supplies. The district also plans on purchasing additional software for teachers and students to use in order to round out the district’s distanced learning curriculums. Brittain said she’s not sure if the district will need additional funding beyond the $1 million, but that will likely become more clear over the coming months as the district gets ready for fall instruction. “It doesn’t feel like right now we’ll have to exceed that allocation, but that also depends on how long we’re in COVID-impacted times,” Superintendent Brian Wharton said. The district has up until Sept. 30, 2022, to spend these funds.
• The school board approved the hiring of 10 new instructors and staff along with one request for leave of absence, seven resignations, retirements or terminations, and three requests for staffing changes.
• A total of $1,225 in donations were accepted by the board.
• School lunches next year will see a 5-cent increase due to a required raise through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Paid Lunch Equity Tool. Lunches at elementary schools next year will cost $2.85, with lunches at secondary schools costing $3.25. The cost for a breakfast meal will see no change. Compared with surrounding districts, lunches at Yelm Community Schools are about the same price.
• The guaranteed maximum price to rebuild Yelm Middle School got lower on Thursday. Kasey Wyatt, project manager of the district’s effort to rebuild two schools and implement district-wide safety upgrades, reported to the board that the guaranteed maximum price is at $40.4 million to rebuild the school. The initial ceiling price was slated at about $46 million, Wyatt said. “Really happy to say we are a little over $5 million under budget on YMS,” she said. This is the third amendment brought to the board and there is one more amendment expected to come at a later date.
• In a later update regarding the rebuild of Yelm Middle School and Southworth Elementary, as well as the installation of safety upgrades, Wyatt said FORMA Construction plans on pouring slab on grade and erecting walls at YMS in July. Design on Southworth Elementary, which follows YMS’s timeline by about a year, is about a month ahead of schedule. “It’s really coming along as a really positive, very appropriate learning space and learning environment for students,” Wharton said of the Southworth rebuild project.
Substantial completion on school updates for five of the district’s schools — which includes Ridgeline Middle School, Mill Pond Elementary, Fort Stevens Elementary, Prairie Elementary and Yelm High School — is expected Aug. 14. Safety upgrades for Lackamas and McKenna elementary schools are in the final stages of the design phase, and it’s expected those projects will go out to bid in early 2021.
• Wharton said the district is currently taking a hard look at what heading back to school in the fall will look like after state Superintendent Chris Reykdal announced Washington public schools would reopen in the fall. Right now, the district has 13 subcommittees looking at the various issues that may arise and what models the district could consider moving forward with instruction.