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Ellsworth School Board: PKC Shuttle usage to be examined

The Ellsworth School Board is considering the future of the Panther Kids' Club Shuttle due to the low number of students using the district's service.

According to superintendent Barry Cain, there are currently four students from three families using the shuttle, which is offered to all students registered in PKC. Presently, there have been two students from two different families consistently riding the 4:30 p.m. shuttle, while two students from the same family ride the 5:30 p.m. shuttle on a regular basis. PKC originally offered a morning shuttle along with the currently offered rides, but the morning service has since been eliminated since it was not being utilized.

Cain said that as far as income related to PKC, the district is doing "OK."

"There isn't a negative balance, but there are obviously some costs that are associated with the shuttle, so we want to bring that back and look at it," Cain said at the Monday, Oct. 8 school board meeting.

Ellsworth Elementary School principal Mary Zimmerman weighed in on the matter by agreeing with Cain's statement that the shuttle's usage is consistent. Zimmerman also brought up that EES has not been asked whether students outside of PKC can also use the shuttle, though with the amount of tutoring groups starting up at the school, she expects that question may come up in the future.

Board vice president Katie Feuerhelm asked Zimmerman if she thought more families would take advantage of EES's tutoring groups if they were able to use the PKC shuttle, to which Zimmerman replied, "I'm not sure. We ran a couple (tutoring groups) in the spring, and we didn't have anybody say no because of it. I think they worked (transportation) things out."

The district has not advertised the shuttle as an option for non-PKC students but has discussed the possibility of doing so in the future. After a 10-minute discussion, the board decided to take more time to asses the shuttle's usage and made it clear that it would need to give at least a two-month notice if eliminating the shuttle became a reality.

The PKC shuttle was listed as a new business action on the Oct. 8 meeting's agenda, but there is no hard timeline on deciding the future of the service, according to Cain. Another report on the shuttle's usage will be given at the Monday, Nov. 12 board meeting.

The board also heard two 2019-2020 curriculum proposals from Ellsworth Middle School principal Jon Dodge at Monday's meeting. Dodge first mentioned the proposal for a Gothic Literature English elective, which would be offered to juniors and seniors. The class would provide another needed English elective now that American Literature is no longer offered at Ellsworth High School, and would also attempt to appeal to male students who tend to read for pleasure less often than their female counterparts.

Dodge also presented the idea of adding a computer graphic design course to the art department's offered electives.

"The art department has recently found that EHS has had several students attend schools like (UW-)Stout to major in graphic design," Dodge said, "but they go there without almost no background from our high school offerings."

Dodge told the board that the course would necessitate a considerable investment due to the fact that most graphic design programs run smoother on Apple computers, meaning the district would have to fund a new Mac Lab.

Adam Nirmaier, Mary Lewien and members of the tech department who created the proposal for the course estimated that a graphic design offering would cost the district roughly $36,711, but despite the course's estimated expenses, members of the board expressed their approval for the proposal.

Board member Steven Mark, who serves on the Curriculum Committee, mentioned the possibility of a graphic design course addition making the district more competitive in open enrollment.

"After nine years of serving on the Curriculum Committee, I don't recall ever spending money on a course other than maybe on a whole math or science series," board member Jeff Stockwell said. "But I'm in favor of branching out and getting kids what they need."

The proposals were listed as new business action items, but will undergo more consideration before the board makes a final decision on whether or not to include them in the high school's class offerings.

Old business actions

• The board unanimously approved the Monday, Sept. 10, meeting minutes.

• The board unanimously approved the September 2018 financial report.

New business actions

• The board unanimously approved the September personnel report.

• The board decided it would meet on Monday, Oct. 22, at 5:30 p.m. for a special board meeting to certify the levy and schedule the school board Effective Educator Evaluation Process workshop.