The Dutton/Brady school board trustees heard updates on grants, discussed several issues arising from parental concerns and agreed not to offer a retirement incentive during the January meeting.

Superintendent Erica Allen said the district has still not received notification on the application for a Delivering Local Assistance state grant to be used for repairs to the school roof. She said the grant awards are being held up because of an issue with the Montana State Auditor’s office. Allen is looking at possible funding through the USDA Rural Development Community Facilities Guaranteed Loan program. “This is a partial loan, partial grant opportunity,” Allen said. “In order to determine the exact grant portion, I would need to provide the USDA representative with more detailed information. A very broad estimate would be a $15,000 grant award per $100,000 loan award. Anything not funded by the grant would be a 40-year loan at a 2.75% interest rate.”

After further discussion with board members and a follow-up meeting with the Davey Coach representative, the district signed the buyer’s order to purchase the lease-return bus from Davey Coach. The final purchase price is $169,975, which accounts for the $5,000 trade-in discount and includes an installed Webasto heater and timer, a set of new winter tires and delivery freight. The district paid the required 10% and will pay the remainder upon delivery.

Allen asked the board to consider updating the student handbook. She said based on recent feedback and concerns from parents, she would recommend amending the extra-curricular policy to say if a student is suspended from school during the week for any reason, he or she will also be suspended from participating in scheduled extra-curricular activities that same week. Students will practice during the suspension, and travel with the team.

Additionally, Allen said the board was asked to reconsider the closed campus during lunch hour for freshmen and sophomores. A parent had requested students in those grades be allowed to leave campus with signed paperwork from their parents.

Allen was also approached by a parent asking if it would be possible to co-op with Choteau and Conrad for girls softball next year. Allen said for the district to do this, they would need to provide transportation for participating students and pay MHSA dues for this sport. “After sharing the district’s participation numbers with MHSA, they advised we wouldn’t need to add an additional boys sport at this time in order to meet Title IX requirements because the girls’ participation percentages are so low,” Allen said. “If we did choose to add a boys sport, last year I was approached about adding golf, which would fulfill Title IX requirements if needed in the future.” There was no decision made on these three requests, as they were not action items on the board agenda.

The board agreed with Allen’s recommendation to not offer a retirement incentive for the 2020-21 school year. According to Allen, each year she and the business manager evaluate whether it would be beneficial to the district to offer a retirement incentive. “After discussion, we do not feel there is a need to offer the incentive at this time,” she added.

Allen informed the board that during the Christmas break, new countertops were installed in the kitchen. Additional work that was to be completed at that time was delayed and will continue as time allows.

Under the athletic report, it was noted the district basketball tournament will be held in Shelby Feb. 19-22. Dutton/Brady School is responsible for ticket takers on Thursday and will need six volunteers to help. Those interested can contact the school.

Principal Leslee Weber noted iReady diagnostic midyear testing is taking place in kindergarten through eighth grade for reading and math.

Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) interim training was held in January. The training prepares teachers to administer practice tests to students to better prepare them for taking the SBAC standardized test.

Weber informed the board a new statewide science test for fifth and eighth grades will be included in the SBAC. This is a field test. A field test is not included in the district performance score. The science test will replace the MontCas paper and pencil test. The window for testing is March 9 through May 15.

The ACT for juniors will be administered on March 24 on the Dutton campus.

Under action items, the board took the following actions:

•Called for an election on May 5.

•Approved hiring Brian Bedord, a retired teacher, as a substitute teacher.

•Tabled approving a competitive, advertised bidding process for the bus barn until more information is received on whether the district receives grant money for needed roof repairs, which is a priority.

•Approved allowing fourth-grade girls and boys to play junior high basketball.