San Juan School Board approves site for new Utah State Univ. facility in Monument Valley

The San Juan School Board approved a site for a new Utah State University (USU) facility in Monument Valley on October 13.

The approved site is northwest of Monument Valley High School on Monument Valley Road, which leads to Gouldings.

School board member Nelson Yellowman said the approved site is “probably the best site for utility infrastructure and access to Monument Valley High School.”

Preliminary work on the project envisions a 12,867 square foot building with an estimated $10 million price tag.

The next step in the process is to draw up a lease agreement between the university and the school district.

Currently, USU offers courses in the site of the old Seventh Day Adventist Hospital near Gouldings.

In other business at the October 13 meeting, it was reported that a total of 2,880 students were enrolled in the San Juan School District on October 1, representing a drop of 49 students over the past year.

While the one-year total dropped, the number is very close to the 2019 figure, which was 2,891.

“Our numbers are relatively stable over the past two years,” said Superintendent Ron Nielson, discounting the 2020 year, which was totally disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Six of the 12 schools in the district did not have in-school instruction in 2020.

Enrollment varies by school, by ethnicity, and by age group. See the chart on page A5.

A total of 1,682 students in the district are classified as Native American, with 1,226 students classified as White, and 188 students classified as Hispanic.

The individual schools are mostly homogeneous, with at least 97 percent of the students in the Monument Valley, Montezuma Creek, and Navajo Mountain schools classified as Native American.

In the Monticello and La Sal schools, at least 91 percent of the students are classified as White.

The Blanding schools are split, with 56 percent of the students classified as White.

Over the past year, enrollment numbers grew by 16 students in the Montezuma Creek schools and fell by 45 students in the Monument Valley schools, by 12 in the Monticello schools, and by eight in the Blanding schools.

The numbers are similar across age ranges, with all 13 age groups having between 200 and 243 students.

There are 173 more male students than female students in the schools, with 1,526 boys and 1,353 girls.

The school district is pulling back on plans to remodel the conference building in Blanding.

The district had set aside $500,000 to remodel the building, which was originally constructed more than 60 years ago by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a seminary building.

Business Manager Tyrel Pemberton reports that an analysis by Tri-Hurst Construction showed that the building may have structural issues, in addition to challenges related to energy use and ADA codes.

Nielson reports that the school district, like many organizations, is experiencing difficulty finding employees for many positions.

It is creating a growing problem for the school secretaries who coordinate substitute teachers.

“Our secretaries are reporting tremendous pressure to try to find subs,” said Nielson, and the calls to order a substitute are coming in the hours when the secretaries are off work.

Nielson said that one direction the district could move is to hire a single employee to coordinate substitutes for the entire district.

Another option is to possibly move some of the work hours to the school secretaries to after regular business hours.

Either way, said Nielson, “We can’t continue asking people to work off the clock.”

Nielson reviewed the district COVID-19 situation and said, “I feel pretty good with where we are at right now. Numbers have been up and down but not drastic changes.”

Every morning, the district reports the number of active cases in each school. On October 19, there were 17 active cases in the district, with nine cases in the Blanding schools, five in the Monument Valley schools, and three in the Monticello schools.

“I don’t know to what degree students who may be sick are being tested,” said Nielson. “The numbers may not be 100 percent accurate.”

Monique McDermott, the new principal at Blanding Elementary School, reported to the board.

McDermott stated that three goals at the school are to work with the new assistant principal at the school, to develop a school wide behavior support system, and to expand professional development opportunities for teachers who teach writing and vocabulary.

With 525 students, Blanding Elementary is by far the largest school in the district.

The board presented San Juan Sweet Job awards to Craig Swenson, a Career and Technical Education teacher at San Juan High, Chandra Hart, who teaches at Blanding Elementary, and Sheri Pugh, who serves as a counselor at San Juan High.

The school board declined to join a class-action lawsuit regarding vaping products sold through Juul Labs. Two legal firms have approached school district about separate lawsuits.

Superintendent Nielson reports that 31 of the 41 school districts in Utah have joined the lawsuit.

The school board approved new math texts for seventh and eighth grade students. The math texts for high school students was adopted in 2017.

The school board also approved changes in activities for schools in the River Region. Nielson said that COVID and other factors has caused “a lot of revisions and changing in the athletic schedules.”

The next school board meeting is on November 10.

San Juan Record

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