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School board adds two early dismissals to calendar

MORRIS, Minn. - In an effort to accommodate staff training for a new bullying prevention program, the Morris Area School Board voted Monday to add two early dismissals to the school calendar in September.

The new calendar now includes early dismissals at 12:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept 10 and Monday, Sept. 17. Staff would meet from training from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the afternoon.

The six hours of training will be used to familiarize staff with the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, which the board voted to adopt in February. Olweus is a data-driven program designed to develop a consistent message about acceptable behavior for students and staff across the district. The staff training time is a requirement of the program.

At the meeting, Superintendent Scott Monson said "there isn't really a great way to do this, but I think this is the most beneficial way to get that training in place."

Board member Brent Fuhrman asked why the proposal was for two early dismissals rather than a single day or with late starts.

"I think it's so much to soak in... if you can break it into manageable segments I think it can work better for us," Monson responded. If the district had chosen to add late starts, it would have required three mornings, Monson said.

"I don't think there's a better way to do it, but this does put parents in a spot, having an early dismissal," said Fuhrman. "It's probably still the best way to do it, but I wanted to be sure we looked at [other options]."

"I think we recognize that there really wasn't an easy way to do it that wouldn't impact parents," said Monson.

Cyrus school consolidation moving forward

The Cyrus School Board has passed a resolution indicating they would like to move forward with consolidating the district, and Morris is among the three districts that may be involved with the process, Monson told the board on Monday.

Both Hancock and Minnewaska have also expressed preliminary interest in consolidating with Cyrus, but at this point no formal action has been taken by the Morris Area School Board to move forward.

Instead, discussion at Monday's meeting was an opportunity for board members to voice objections and ask questions about the process, said Board Chairman Kurt Gartland.

On March 2, Monson and Gartland met with four representatives from Cyrus to discuss the possibility of consolidating. Although the Morris district has not committed formally, Monson and Gartland indicated that the district is interested in learning more about the process.

"Our thought is that we want to keep exploring it and asking questions to be sure that we know what we're getting into because there are some challenges," said Gartland.

Monson said he would be working to compile a list of "frequently asked questions" and answers regarding consolidation to provide to the board. The board will also likely meet in a series of work sessions in March and April to discussion questions and move toward determining if Morris is interested in consolidating with Cyrus.

The Cyrus School Board would like to have an election about consolidation in November, which is required for each district involved in the consolidation, which means a consolidation would take place for the 2013-2014 school year.

The Morris Area School Board has scheduled a special meeting for Monday, March 26 at 5:15 p.m. in the Morris Area High School Media Center. One topic on the agenda is a formal resolution for the district to participate in consolidation discussions.

Other business

• Four roofing consultants have been contacted about a possible project to replace the 1991 section of the high school roof, and will be presenting their plans to the Facilities Committee on March 28, Monson reported. If a roofing consultant is chosen after the presentations, a formal bidding process will likely be necessary and the board may need to take additional action.

• Morris Area Elementary School was approved for 1.5 literacy tutors for Pre-K and 1.5 literacy tutors for K-3 students through AmeriCorps' Minnesota Reading Corps program . However, the award is contingent on AmeriCorps receiving the funding they expect and the district recruiting literacy tutors, Elementary Principal Brad Korn told the board in his monthly report.