School board considers Bluff School concepts

by Rhett Sifford, Staff writer The San Juan County School Board took a visual tour of the latest site plans for Bluff Elementary School at their July 10 meeting at the District Offices in Blanding.
The plans, provided by MHTN Architects of Salt Lake City, gave the board their first look at the school to be built on the former Rodeo/Fairgrounds.
The next step for the School Board is to facilitate a community meeting to gather final input from the community.  Brian Parker of MHTN Architects said the company should have documents ready for contractors to bid by early December.
The school will comprise 35,600 square feet, but classrooms could easily expand to double their original size without impacting the play field or other common areas.
The design takes into account that the facility will be used to bring students, teachers and administrators together from the southern portion of the district for professional development events.
The board approved data that helps assess the extent to which Native American children participate on an equal basis with non-Native children in the District’s education programs and activities.
The board had previously seen the data, but Lynette Johnson provided new graphs for the July 10 meeting. The graphs focus on the two schools in the district with relatively equal numbers of Native American and non-Native students, San Juan High School and Albert R. Lyman Middle School.
Native American students make up 42 percent of the student body at San Juan High and at Lyman Middle School.
There are 26 activities offered at San Juan High School, including sports, activities, clubs, etc. However, in only four of these activities do Native American students participate at a higher rate than other students. They are wrestling, softball, Unity and Gear Up. The participation is close to the same percentage in an additional six activities.
School board president Steve Black said that the data shows what is happening, but the harder question is why and are there problems that the board needs to address.
The board also approved official responses to 29 comments, suggestions, and questions regarding the education of Native American students enrolled in San Juan School District schools.
The questions and comments came from residents at school board meetings in Monument Valley and Montezuma Creek on January 16 and May 15.
The responses covered a wide range of questions, including the allocation of funds, roads and transportation, technology upgrades, supporting local business, and student performance.
Challenges identified by the questions and the responses include teenage pregnancy, facility upgrades, security and safety for students, and ways to keep people entertained after school in isolated communities.
Suggestions ranged from new wrestling mats, playground equipment, swimming pools, and tracks to strengthening the training of coaches.
Superintendent Ron Nielson asked for board direction on how to proceed with One-Time Needs projects and possibly using set aside funds to cover the cost of the projects.
Projects discussed include replacing the deteriorated running tracks at Monticello, Monument Valley, and Whitehorse high schools.  Another need may be a three-lane track at Navajo Mountain High.
Nielson also discussed using One-Time Needs funds to help cover the construction cost of Bluff Elementary School and to construct a varsity soccer field at San Juan High School.
The board directed administration to collect cost estimates associated with the projects.  Nielson will provide the figures at a future meeting.

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