MONTROSE — There are 62 days left before Oct. 14, the Tuesday when ballots will be mailed out for voters to decide a mil levy override designed to raise $2.9 million annually for new classroom technology, necessities and renovations.
The Montrose County School District RE-1J Board discussed ballot language Tuesday during their first meeting before the start of school next week.
The consensus of the board and district staff is the language will be clear and easy to understand for voters and property owners.
The language has been dissected and scrutinized for months through a vetting process which has included members of the board, staff, the district’s attorney and members of the Community School Information Team.
The board is scheduled to approve the ballot language later this month during a board work session Aug. 26.
If approved this November, the new money raised would go towards hiring new teachers and increasing the amount of professional development days each teacher receives. The district also wants to purchase more digital devices for the classroom, to be used for digital learning and also for taking new state assessment tests, which will all be in a digital format.
New local revenues would help replenish about $7 million in annual cuts to the district since the recession.
Montrose District Superintendent Dr. Mark MacHale said the ballot language proposed before the board Aug. 26 meets all TABOR regulations.
Property owners will receive a separate statement annually detailing how much each owner is paying to the school district; voters will be able to track all expediters of the $2.9 million raised each year through a separate district account.
District Chief Financial Officer Karin Slater said the money raised by the levy would be kept in a separate account and not the district’s general fund; by separating the money from the general fund, the district would be able to make clear and easy reports to the community about where the money is being used.
“We are going to keep these monies separate,” MacHale said. “I want to make sure the voters can see it.”
Physical Activity Initiative To Begin This Year
Beginning this school year, the district is implementing a broad new physical education curriculum overhaul to all schools to make PE more standardized.
The district spends about $1.3 million annually on physical education in all its schools. During the last school year, a P.E. Curriculum review committee studied the district’s physical education programs in all schools and found not all campuses offer the same amount of physical education. The committee concluded there was no accountability when it comes to what schools are delivering to students.
Montrose High School assistant principal Jim Pavlich told the board Tuesday that some schools devote just 30 minutes a week on physical education, while others offer well over 100 minutes.
He said district elementary schools spend, on average, about 90 minutes per week on physical education.
Pavlich said although fewer Montrose County students are obese than the state average (18.8 vs. 23 percent), there is “very little consistency” between Montrose schools and their curriculums.
That will change beginning this year, as physical education teachers will be trained and monitored in a new program to promote healthier students.
Pavlich said physical education in children can improve academic achievement, behavior and sharpen attention spans, concluding “healthier students are better learners.”
“If we graduate unhealthy kids they cost more later in terms of our society,” Pavlich said.
The district spent a total of $38,885 on new digital equipment to help teachers better monitor student’s physical education progress.
Pavlich said the use of new iPads, fitness software and digital testing equipment will allow teachers to monitor each student’s fitness over time, so teachers can have “those hard conversations with parents” in order to get them more involved with their children’s health.