Friday, May 1, 2020

Calendar for 2020-2021 Approved by Board of Trustees

by Robert "Bob" Lewandowski

I hope this post finds everyone in good health and spirit. I want to share the 2020-2021 Calendar for the next school year that was selected by the Board of Trustees. It was approved at the regular board meeting on April 20, 2020. The CPS Calendar Survey indicated 79% of those surveyed selected this as their calendar choice for 2020-2021 school year. It is a different calendar than we have had in the past. 

I would like to thank all of the Calendar Committee Members for their hard work. This was a group effort that I think resulted in a product that will serve our community and students well.

Below are some of the details in the selection of the 2020-2021 Calendar

The 2020-2021 Calendar Committee first met on February 5, 2020 to develop two calendars that meet the minimum state requirements of 1080 hours of instruction as per Montana Code Annotated 20-1-301. The Committee looked at four different types of calendars overall, but the Committee felt the two calendars presented to the board were the most complete in providing for the overall needs of all stakeholders.  The Calendar Survey opened on April 10, 2020 and closed at noon on April 17, 2020.

The Calendar Committee developed two calendars for consideration and identified them with the following titles: BLACK or BASE CALENDAR and BLUE or PDW DAY CALENDAR
 
Each calendar met the minimum of 1080 hours as per 20-1-301:
  • 20-1-301. School fiscal year. (1) The school fiscal year begins on July 1 and ends on June 30. At least the minimum aggregate hours defined in subsection (2) must be conducted during each school fiscal year, except that 1,050 aggregate hours of pupil instruction for graduating seniors may be sufficient.
         (2) The minimum aggregate hours required by grade are:
         (a) 360 hours for a half-time kindergarten program or 720 hours for a full-time kindergarten program, as provided in 20-7-117;
         (b) 720 hours for grades 1 through 3; and
         (c) 1,080 hours for grades 4 through 12.
         (3) For any elementary or high school district that fails to provide for at least the minimum aggregate hours, as listed in subsections (1) and (2), the superintendent of public instruction shall reduce the direct state aid for the district for that school year by two times an hourly rate, as calculated by the office of public instruction, for the aggregate hours missed.

       
The Board Selected Calendar for 2020-2021 was the PDW DAY CALENDAR for 2020-2021: (Current Thursday Early Outs for Staff Development are moved to Fridays and converted into 8 Staff PDW Fridays throughout the school year)

The Calendar length is 171 student contact days.  School begins on August 20 and ends on May 26. It has (8) Winter Break Days; (3) Spring Break Days. It has (139) Full Days; (24) Part Days which have been moved from Thursdays to Fridays; and (4) Half Days strategically placed to take advantage low attendance. There are (186) Professional Days and (7) Pupil Instructional Related Days and (8) Professional Development Work Days or "PDW" Days for teacher development, work and group planning. This Calendar requires a daily structured recess for the elementary to extend learning time while taking advantage of low attendance numbers on Friday afternoons by scheduling one hour early release for students to attend activities and weekend events without absence. 

The Survey Results Surveys were collected from the following:
  • Email
  • Facebook
  • District Website
WHEREAS: Linked are the disaggregated survey results:

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Thank You for Past Levy Support! Vote "YES" for KIds in 2020!

by Robert "Bob" Lewandowski

Historically Colstrip votes yes for kids and has passed general fund school levies for more than three decades. The May 5, 2020 U.S. Mail Election Ballots went out in the mail on April 20, 2020.  DUE TO COVID-19, THE PREFERRED METHOD TO RETURN VOTED BALLOTS IS BY U.S. MAIL. However, ballots may be returned physically to the following locations, at the following times: Location Prior to Election Day: Central Administration Office at 216 Olive Drive, Colstrip, MT 59323 Hours: 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM Location on Election Day: Central Administration Office at 216 Olive Drive, Colstrip, MT 59323 Hours: 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

If you miss this regular registration deadline (30 days prior to the election), you may still register for the election by showing up at the county election office up to and including on election day. Between noon and the close of business on the day before election day, you may complete and submit a voter registration card, but you will need to return to the district voting location on election day to pick up and vote a ballot. The county election office is located at: Rosebud County Courthouse, 1200 Main Street, Forsyth MT 59327.  A late registrant may obtain a ballot on election day at the following location: Central Administration Office, 216 Olive Drive, Colstrip MT 59323
There are two levies to be voted on.
      High School General Fund Levy
      Mill levy proposition to finance the school’s High School General Fund: To determine whether the district shall be authorized to impose an increase in local taxes in the amount of $257,840.95 which is approximately 3.37 mills to meet the normal operational costs of the High School District General Fund for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The levy is ongoing once approved by the voters assuming the district levies that amount at least once in the next five years. Passage of this proposal will increase the taxes on a home with market value of $100,000 by approximately $4.55 and on a home with a market value of $200,000 by approximately $9.10.
      Elementary General Fund Levy
      Mill levy proposition to finance the school’s Elementary General Fund: To determine whether the district shall be authorized to impose an increase in local taxes in the amount of $273,584.76 which is approximately 3.58 mills to meet the normal operational costs of the Elementary District General Fund for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The levy is ongoing once approved by the voters assuming the district levies that amount at least once in the next five years. Passage of this proposal will increase the taxes on a home with market value of $100,000 by approximately $4.83 and on a home with a market value of $200,000 by approximately $9.67.
As you may know, it is very important for Colstrip Public Schools to pass the General Fund Levies at both the High School and Elementary School. Your support is critical.
I would like to encourage you to ask questions about the impact of the Levy Funds. I would also encourage you to get out and vote. A vote for the Levy Funds is definitely a vote for the children in which we serve. These Levy Funds are crucial for maintaining salaries, equipment, curriculum, activities and the operational expenses of this district.

This community has taken pride in passing Levy Funds in the years past. This is a community that has traditionally supported its kids. Our teachers and staff members have played a key role in this process. I can't stress enough the importance in passing the Levy Funds.

Point of fact: Colstrip Public School District #19 has passed Levy Funds for 30 years; this level of community support played a instrumental role in the decisions of those that have awarded grants to our School District. This past year alone, the District has been awarded over $1.6 million dollars in competitive grants. Your support for our school levies is critical in so many ways. Get the word out and support our kids and see that these levies get a FOR vote. Thank you in advance for any, and all of your effort in seeing this need through.




Saturday, April 4, 2020

Now For Some Good News: District Awarded $121,273.00 Grant

by Robert "Bob" Lewandowski

There has been a lot that has happened in the past several weeks. It almost seems surreal, but just before the pandemic, on March 12, 2020 the District did get some great news. It was awarded $121,273.00 through a coal grant we submitted to address the water main break. Once again, board members Bruce Brown and Brent Burton along with McKinstry Account Executive, Tyler Bush assisted me as we presented the Colstrip Water-main Grant Proposal to the Montana Coal Board.


If you remember, on December 11, 2019 Colstrip High School had a water main break outside of the facilities between the municipal water vault and the building where the gymnasium and classroom structure meets on the North side of the high school facilities. The break created a significant amount of damage as the amount of water coming out of the identified pipe not only found its way inside the building from on top of the ground, but also came up through the cement floor and walls and exited into classrooms through electrical outlet boxes. (See photos below). Due to the extenuating circumstances the school district was forced to close school for two days until the break could be repaired. When the water main pipe was excavated and the leak identified, there was significant concern that the pipe was compromised enough through corrosion and time that it could certainly break again at another place between the water vault and the building. The damages to the school district were substantial: the loss of two instructional days as well as over $80,000 worth of damage.

Technically speaking, the original cast iron water main pipe corroded due to high alkalinity in the soils and electrolysis.  It is anticipated that the replacement pipe will be CPVC with cast iron fittings.  Sacrificial anodes will be utilized to reduce corrosion at the fittings.  The sizing of these fittings will be determined following the compilation of a geotechnical report identifying the actual composition of the soils.  Approximately 100 lineal feet of pipe will be replaced from the city’s valve box to the connection inside the footprint of the high school.

We hope to get started on the water-main replacement as soon as possible. We are anticipating the funding early next fall.

This was one of two grants submitted to the Coal Board. The second grant was tabled until the June Meeting. The District feels very fortunate to have received this grant as it offsets funding that can be utilized to address other needs. Once again, thank you #MTCOAL and the Montana Coal Board and Department of Commerce.

Once again, stay safe, stay healthy and until we hear different stay home! 



Sunday, March 29, 2020

COVID-19 Plan of Action for Student Services During School Closure

by Robert "Bob" Lewandowski

On Friday at 3:30 PM the Colstrip School Board of Trustees unanimously approved the COVID-19 Action Plan. The Plan was sent to the Governor's Office and has received approval today to begin the Plan March 30, 2020. The District is in an excellent position to provide remote learning to our students. With Chromebook One-to-one services as well as a host of programs utilized during regular instruction, off-site remote learning should go well. If you do not have internet access, please contact the school, see the number below.

If your child has picked up their Chromebook, you should start seeing information pushed out by your classroom teachers and administration starting on Monday, March 30, 2020 if you haven't received it already. See the Action Plan for more details.

Below is the Action Plan and the expectations set forth for delivering off-site learning, school meals, services for students with disabilities as well other services customarily provided.

If you have any questions please call at 406-748-4699 extension 3400.

Information has been and will be shared through the follow venues:
  • Emails
  • Phone Messenger

COVID-19 Action Plan
Offsite learning instruction and structure: 
  • Colstrip Public Schools is asking the certified teaching staff to be electronically available during the hours of 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM during school calendar days providing instruction to students through the following mechanism:
    • On-line Courses
    • Video chats/tutoring
    • Phone conference calls
  • All students have been issued Chromebooks that they currently use at school for access to on-line programming. Those that do not have on-line access will be provided hard copy packets on a bi-weekly basis. 
  • Information will be pushed out to students and parents using at least one of the following: email, Google Classroom or Dojo. 
  • The District will be using IXL as the main resource to provide educational services; however, IXL by itself is not sufficient and in some cases does not provide support to some contents and age groups. Therefore,  IXL will be complemented by other appropriate on-line services through Google Classroom or DoJo such as SuccessMaker, Edready and iReady. Teachers are encouraged to utilize other on-line sources as well; however, the District requires K-12 student participation with IXL in applicable contents. Variations must be approved by the Curriculum Director, Susan Sharkey. IXL is appropriate in that it is very user friendly and that it is diagnostic and analytical in its delivery and provides systemic reporting of student engagement and mastery learning for following up with the Montana Office of Public Instruction and Governor’s office. 
    • Point of fact, IXL is an intuitive program that also allows maximum input by the instructor while providing redirection during student use through the program. IXL also provides analytics and diagnostics that give up-to-the-minute insights, which pinpoints students' overall working grade levels and their levels on key strands. The Diagnostic Strand Analysis makes differentiation a breeze showing you the most common skill recommendations needed. Once again, IXL will also allow District-wide reporting that aligns with Montana Common Core Standards and student mastery. 
  • Teachers will assign skill based lessons using IXL through either Google Classroom or DoJo. DoJo or Google Classroom can also be used to push out content and provide student learning experiences. The District understands that the developed educational services will look different in almost every class and will do our best to provide consistent parameters for students, parents and teachers to follow. 
  • The District is providing access to these opportunities through the school website at http://colstripschoolsdigital.org. Technology Supervisor, Mike Lovato is working on the website to establish links for learning appropriate to student classes and grades. Students will be able to gain fluency and confidence in math, reading and language arts! The identified programs and interventions will help students master essential skills at their own pace through fun and interactive questions and built in support. We will have staff available to answer any questions as well as a helpline for students. 

School meals, consistent with what the district regularly provides: 
  • Colstrip Schools has been granted a waiver through the MT Office of Public Instruction to establish an emergency Summer Food Service Program during school closure. This waiver allows Colstrip Schools to provide breakfast and lunch for all children ages 18 and younger free of charge. Participants are asked to notify the District Office (748-4699 x3400) for questions or to schedule meal pick-up. This plan will go into effect beginning Monday, March 30th. The pick-up point will be the Ponderosa Butte Golf Course lower parking lot (softball) from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. This is a grab ‘n’ go program. Bus routes may be run as needed to deliver meals to out-of-district students.

Services for students with disabilities: 
  • The District is providing a Free and Appropriate Education for students with disabilities.
  • The District is conducting IDEA and 504 meetings via electronic means and/or meeting in person, but complying with The Department’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), Center for Disease Control (CDC) Guidelines, State Guidelines and/or local health guidelines;
  • The District is providing educational and related services, in collaboration with parents and staff, through all means available, including
    • Alternative learning sites
    • On-line learning
    • Video chats/tutoring
    • Phone conference calls
    • Hard copy packets of materials
  • Special Education Director, Jennifer Hickok indicates that all special education needs will be provided on-line and in alignment with student individual educational programs while adhering to social distancing. Needed meetings and reviews will be hosted virtually using programs like Zoom, Go to Meeting or Webex. 

Other services customarily provided to students: 
  • Other services customarily provided must align with the Governor's directive for health and safety. 
  • The District is providing guidance counseling supports and services utilizing communication forms: email, telephone, Zoom and etc. Constituents may call the District Office at 406-748-4699 for directed services.
  • The District is providing social and emotional supports and services utilizing communication forms: email, telephone, Zoom and etc.  Constituents may call the District Office at 406-748-4699 for directed services.


Friday, March 27, 2020

Free Grab and Go Meals

by Robert "Bob" Lewandowski

SUPERINTENDENT ALERT: Starting Monday, March 30, 2020 Colstrip Public Schools will provide both breakfast and school lunch through the Summer Food Service Program. This program will serve all children ages 18 and younger. You may pick up the meals at Ponderosa Butte Golf Course lower parking lot from 11:00 AM until 1:00 PM. Both meals will be provided at the same time. Out-of-town route-bus students may pick their meals up at their regular morning bus stop. The buses will run 4 hours later than the regular schedule to accommodate a later delivery. Please be patient as bus meal delivery may delay the scheduled bus stop. This is a grab ‘n’ go program. Bus routes will run as needed to deliver meals to out-of-district students. Participants are asked to notify the District Office if there are questions or to schedule meal pick-up at 748-4699 extension 3400.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Extended Emergency Closure Services Begining March 30, 2020

by Robert "Bob" Lewandowski


SUPERINTENDENT UPDATE: March 25, 20219 
Once again, I hope this finds everyone healthy and practicing social distancing. Governor Bullock has directed that all schools will continue emergency closure through April 10, 2020. If there is not an extended closure beyond this time, students and staff will return to school on Wednesday, April 15, 2020 due to the scheduled Easter break. A plan has been developed by Colstrip Public Schools to ensure students will receive educational services, food services and special services outlined by the IDEA. 

Please note that we are in an emergency situation and that we will not be able to provide all the services that we were providing before school closure. We will not be providing services to students in-person. The Governor has required the following: Districts are expected to use this two-week period March 16 through March 27 to plan and implement ways to provide students with (1) quality public education through remote learning, (2) school meals, (3) services to students with disabilities, (4) other services customarily provided to students in school in the extended closure starting March 30, 2020.  Below is a worksheet provided by the Montana School Boards’ Association for meeting the expectations directed by the Governor. The information in blue is the current Colstrip Public School District’s response to the directed request.

Information on Expectations for the Extended Emergency Closure Starting March 30, 2020
· Districts will receive full funding and all requirements for pupil instruction will be waived following the actions below:
o   District creates a plan to provide:
      • Offsite learning instruction and structure: Colstrip Public Schools is asking the certified teaching staff to be electronically available during the hours of 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM to address student needs and staff training.  The District is not asking that they hover over their computers, but be in periodic contact through electronic means in case of need. The District is aware that many of the parent questions about the educational delivery of students may come after school hours. We want to encourage that communication to take place as much as possible.

The District will be using IXL as the main resource to provide educational services; however, IXL by itself is not sufficient and in some cases does not provide support to some contents and age groups. Therefore,  IXL will be complemented by other appropriate on-line services through Google Classroom or DoJo such as SuccessMaker, Edready and iReady. Teachers are encouraged to utilize other on-line sources as well; however, the District requires K-12 student participation with IXL in applicable contents. Variations must be approved by the Curriculum Director, Susan Sharkey. The reason for requiring the use of IXL is that it is very user friendly and that it is diagnostic and analytical in its delivery and provides systemic reporting of student engagement and mastery learning for following up with the Montana Office of Public Instruction and Governor’s office. 

Point of fact, IXL is an intuitive program that also allows maximum input by the instructor while providing redirection during student use through the program. IXL also provides analytics and diagnostics that give up-to-the-minute insights, which pinpoints students' overall working grade levels and their levels on key strands. The Diagnostic Strand Analysis makes differentiation a breeze showing you the most common skill recommendations needed. Once again, IXL will also allow District-wide reporting that aligns with Montana Common Core Standards and student mastery. 

Teachers will assign skill based lessons using IXL through either Google Classroom or DoJo. DoJo or Google Classroom can also be used to push out content and provide student learning experiences. The District understands that the developed educational services will look different in almost every class; however, we are doing our best to provide consistent parameters for students, parents and teachers to follow. 

The District is providing access to these opportunities through the school website at http://colstripschoolsdigital.org. Technology Supervisor, Mike Lovato is working on the website to establish links for learning appropriate to student classes and grades. Students will be able to gain fluency and confidence in math, reading and language arts! The identified programs and interventions will help students master essential skills at their own pace through fun and interactive questions and built in support. We will have staff available to answer any of your questions as well as a helpline for students. Please email: colstrip@colstrip.k12.mt.us or call 406-748-4699 ext 3421 for more information.
      • School meals, consistent with what the district regularly provides: Colstrip Schools has been granted a waiver through the MT Office of Public Instruction to establish an emergency Summer Food Service Program during school closure. This waiver allows Colstrip Schools to provide breakfast and lunch for all children ages 18 and younger free of charge. Please notify the District Office (748-4699 x3400) for questions or to schedule meal pick-up.This plan will go into effect beginning Monday, March 30th. The pick-up point will be the Ponderosa Butte Golf Course lower parking lot (softball) from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. This is a grab ‘n’ go program. Parents must have a child with them in order to pick up the meals.
      • Services for students with disabilities: Special Education Director, Jennifer Hickok indicated that all special education needs will be provided on-line and in alignment with student individual educational programs while adhering to social distancing. Needed meetings and reviews will be hosted virtually using programs like Zoom, Go to Meeting or Webex. The staff will do everything possible to maintain compliance with Federal law and the IDEA.
      • Other services customarily provided to students: Other services customarily provided must align with the Governor's directive for health and safety. 
o   Board of Trustees approves the district plan: The Colstrip School Board of Trustees approved the following motion on Tuesday, March 17, 2020 Emergency Meeting: Colstrip School Board of Trustees approves remote learning opportunities for student proficiency located offsite through the District Website and other electronic services beginning immediately 20-1-202(5); 20-1-101(14); 20-7-118; 20-9-311(11) MCA.
o   The Governor, in consultation with OPI, approves the Board-endorsed plan and waives requirements for pupil instruction.
o   The District will submit periodic reports on the status of:
§  Offsite learning instruction and structure: The District will use the electronic platforms mentioned to provide evidence for offsite learning instruction and student engagement. 
§  School meals, consistent with what the district regularly provides: The District will follow the parameters of the Summer Food Service Program as outlined and provide meal counts and reports as requested.
§  Services for students with disabilities: Educational services will be aligned with individual education plans. All adjustments will meet IDEA requirements. Reviews of Individual Educational Plans will be available for the Montana Office of Public Instruction to review. 
As the District moves forward in these uncertain times, Colstrip Public Schools will do everything possible to continue to serve our students. We are very thankful and proud of the administrators, staff members and teachers that are out on the front lines delivering services. We are working hard to communicate and develop a means to provide the services listed above. This is being done with our hands-tied behind our backs. Almost all of our pedagogical training allows for interpersonal exchanges that we know longer have at this time. Providing remote learning opportunities without face to face meetings is unprecedented; however, our District has been blessed to have an electronic infrastructure to facilitate remote learning. Thank you for the effort and patience needed to help our children’s learning opportunities despite the circumstances. 

Please stay safe and healthy.


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Governor Bullock Extends School Closure

by Robert "Bob" Lewandowski

Today, Governor Bullock has directed that all schools will continue emergency closure through April 10, 2020. As directed by the Governor, a plan has been developed by Colstrip Public Schools to ensure students will receive educational services, food services and special services outline by the IDEA. Please be patient as we continue to communicate any changes that will take place with the latest Governor directive.