Charlotte Richter | Staff Writer
Unified School District 207 Board of Education members announced the award of the Project ARMIES grant as well as provided general district updates during the monthly school board meeting Sept. 30 at the district office.
Department of Defense Education Activity awarded USD 207 a 2021 grant known as Project ARMIES: Anchoring Reading and Mathematics in Exercise (Health) Sciences.
Project ARMIES prioritizes academic and physical achievement through applied health sciences and exergaming, which are hybrid, movement-based activities, throughout all four post schools.
USD 207 is one of 30 districts to be awarded the grant, and one of the districts fully fund-ed at the maximum level of funding eligibility, with $1.5 million to be awarded over the next five years, USD 207 Superintendent of Schools Keith Mispagel said.
The district is in year one, planning the implication of the grant in each school, including the space and facility use of the new Patton Junior High School.
SuAnn Grant, deputy superintendent, said the grant covers the cost of equipment, pro-fessional development, project director interventions, support staff and supplies. Project ARMIES includes the installation and use of advanced sensory and movement-based equipment, similar to the sensory equipment currently in place at MacArthur Elementary School.
Mispagel said that the current equipment is a small fraction of what Project ARMIES will bring to the district.“Now we’ll be able to replicate that and more in all four buildings,” he said.
According to a report by Mispagel, 1,654 students are enrolled in USD 207 schools for the 2021/2022 schoolyear. The number reflects an increase of 166 students from last year’s enrollment, but is lower than the district’s average pre-COVID enrollment rate by 181 students.
Although he anticipated a higher increase in the enrollment rate given the increased enrollment rates at the Command and General Staff College, Mispagel said that the increase was still positive. He praised the Fort Leavenworth Garrison, housing and other organizations on post for coordinating incoming families and the arrival of CGCS students and school-age children.
Enrollment rates directly coincide with the distribution of Impact Aid, a congressional appropriation of relief funding military-connected school districts can receive through a grant system. For USD 207, this funding can be used without restriction by the board. Mispagel said that COVID-19 played a larger role in the distribution of aid because schools were allowed to use the low enrollment numbers from the 2019-2020 school-year to justify qualification for the Impact Aid grant.
Now, as many schools in the nation have returned to average enrollment rates, those that govern educational finances at the state level are working to decide if the 2019-2020 schoolyear can still be included for aid.
“It’s a little tougher this year because there isn’t as much momentum for potential sup-port,” said Mispagel.
Mispagel said he hopes to see higher enrollment rates soon.
“I’m optimistic that with the support of the community and the incoming families and soldiers, we’ll bring out a new path in August 2022, and will provide an opportunity to in-crease enrollment,” said Mispagel.
New Patton Construction
Rich Holden, Chief Financial Officer, gave an update on the construction of the new Patton Junior High School. He said progress in the next two to three weeks includes the completion of the building’s exterior, the south parking lot, above-ground irrigation and interior wall and floor finishes.
“I expect the building will be substantially complete by late April,” Holden said.He said the project is going well, and inspections have been consistent.
Special Services Department
Diana Greer, Director of special services, presented updates on the Special Services Department for the 2021/2022 schoolyear. Greer said shared general special services demographics for each school, saying that about 11 percent of students in the district identified with a disability, which includes 1.15 percent of which also identified as gifted.
Greer said across the district, students with disabilities identify highest with speech and language disabilities. She said there were significantly more students from out-of-state with gifted general education paperwork this year than in previous school years. She also specified staffing ratios, new hires in special education, and contracted providers.
Given the increase in the number of students in the district this year, the Special Services Department is still processing out-of-state records and evaluations for new and extended individualized educational plans, Greer said.
Updated Alert System
The board approved feature upgrades from the district’s existing emergency alert system to Fusion. The system allows for more selective schoolwide notifications to administration and staff based on a dialed code for streamlined emergency response processes.
Fusion will allow more mobile alerts, reaching more phones and computers, including those out-of-state.“
Part of what Fusion will allow us to do is send those alerts to our computers, so our smartboards (and teacher laptops) could potentially see a notification. It spreads our capabilities,” USD 207 Network Facilitator Ross Viets said.
The next USD 207 school board meeting is at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 25 at the district office.