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Student mental health issues increase

At the March 9 work meeting of the Kane District Board of Education, Valley High School (VHS) and Kanab Middle School Counselor Ashley Chamberlain, as required by the Utah State Board of Education, presented her biennial Comprehensive Guidance Plan to the school board for approval. She reported student mental health issues have increased and she is spending a substantial amount of time helping students deal with crisis/emotional issues. As a survey showed that 99 percent of students indicated that they need help dealing with stress and anxiety, she has been working on teaching them skills in managing stress and anxiety. The board thanked her for her work and approved the Comprehensive Guidance Plan.

Superintendent Ben Dalton updated the board on education related bills passed by the legislature in the session that just ended. Education funding was increased by nine percent over last year, adding $383 million to the education budget in ongoing revenue. Important bills affecting students include School and Child Care Center Water Testing (House Bill (HB) 21), Period Products in Schools (HB 162), School Safety Amendments (anti-bullying) (HB 428) and HB 30, which provides that a student who is enrolled, or is eligible to be enrolled, as a member of a tribe (qualifying student) may wear tribal regalia during a high school graduation ceremony-that a local education agency may not prohibit a qualifying student from wearing tribal regalia during a high school graduation ceremony.

Another is HB 193, which expands the Optional Extended Day Kindergarten program. Utah public schools provide just 30 percent of students access to full-day kindergarten, where foundational literacy, numeracy and social skills begin to develop, compared to 80 percent for the rest of the nation. Senate Bill 244 requires the state school board to incorporate ethnic studies into the core standards for public schools, grades K-12.

One controversial bill that passed, HB 11, requires schools and districts to designate athletic activities by sex and prohibits transgender females from participating in sports. It further provides that if this outright ban is invalidated, students who want to play school sports aligning with their gender identity will fi rst have to gain permission from an activities commission. The panel would evaluate students’ physical attributes, such as height, weight, flexibility, wingspan and hip-to-knee ratio, to determine eligibility. Governor Spencer Cox has vowed to veto this bill.

Superintendent Dalton reported that a record number of students (a 1020 percent increase in fi ve years) are taking university courses through the concurrent enrollment program offered by Dixie State, Snow College and Weber State University. Students can begin enrolling in college classes in the ninth grade with most of the classes available to 11th and 12th graders. High school students can take classes for the cost of $5 per credit compared to $343 for an adult student at SUU. Concurrent Enrollment has enabled many students to graduate from high school with an Associate Degree.

Dalton updated the board on the Donors Choose program. Donors Choose is a nonprofit education crowdfunding website. Teachers can request funds for student projects, books, trips, supplies, visitors, technology and more. In Kane School District, the program has funded 50 projects, putting $45,562 of materials into classrooms.

He also told the board of the substantial employee use of Blunovus, a proactive and preventative mental health training and support platform. He also reported that Kane County has requested that someone from the school board attend Five County Association of Governments (AOG) meetings. The Five County AOG is guided by a Steering Committee board made up of one county commissioner, one mayor and one elected school board representative from each of the five county school districts. The five counties are Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane and Washington.

Business Manager Cary Reese gave a monthly budget report and updated the board on the progress at the Kanab Elementary School (KES) construction site. KES Principal Dan Trimble reviewed a PowerPoint presentation with the school board, showing photos of the new furniture that is being purchased for the new school.

The school board approved Elementary Character Education Curriculum, as was approved by the District Curriculum Committee. This curriculum incorporates the values of perseverance, respect, gratitude, empathy, kindness, honesty, responsibility, and patience as character traits of the month, into everyday school and classroom routines. The goal is to create and recognize good habits reflecting these values.

The board approved one leave without pay request. It was announced that two long term Valley Elementary School teachers, Marcie Judd and Marianne Leigh, are retiring.

The board approved the hiring, subject to a successful background check, of the following persons: Lynette Lamb (VES fifth grade teacher), Shaelyn Lamb (VES fourth grade teacher), Olivia Holleran (VES one-year elementary teaching contract), Bobbi Sample (KES Reading paraeducator), Mariellen Harrington, Jennifer Michelsen and Tanner Wilburn as substitute teachers and Dustin Riddle as a substitute bus driver. Congratulations to all.

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