It has been done before with great success. Morris Area high school students have taken trips through organizations and even outside of the school and had wonderful learning experiences. At their May meeting on May 24, the Morris Area School Board heard one more proposal for a trip, this time to Costa Rica.
Dylan Viss, who teaches Biology and Science courses at the high school, gave the proposal and asked for an okay from the board to proceed. He explained that it is not actually a school sponsored trip since he is doing it through an agency. However, he will be handing out information to students in school and holding parent meetings at the school.
The school board members were in favor of the trip but had questions about if it would actually be better to have it as school sanctioned. That way any low-income students could get help to go on the trip. The trip will not only be promoted through the school but will also only be open to Morris Area students. There was some discussion for the future to do these types of events through Community Education.
The trip to Costa Rica will be through WorldStrides, a company the school has worked with before for trips. It would take place in the summer of 2022 and be for students in 10th – 12th grade next school year. The dates are June 2-8 and will cost $2,500 per student. For every 10 students that sign-up, the plan will add a free trip for one chaperone.
On the tour, students will take part in white water rafting, swimming with dolphins, visiting hot springs, go zip lining and much more. Biology and science will be incorporated into the activities so students will learn while having fun. Students who express interest will be invited with parents to attend a Parent Meeting held by WorldStride. Viss stated that his job will be to promote and accompany the students to make sure everything goes smoothly.
The board gave the green light for the trip but would like to have more discussion about future trips and if they should be school sanctioned.
In another presentation to the board, Jenny Maras and her student Madelyn Siegel gave a demonstration on drones. Maras’ Advanced Business class has been learning more about drones and how to fly them. She explained that before she could teach this subject, she had to become FAA Certified to fly drones. Now after completing the course, the five students in the class will also have their flying certificates for drones.
The drone class was in four parts and started out with the less interesting stuff. They first learned all the rules, history, safety and best practices guidelines. After this they had stick time where they were able to fly drone simulators.
Finally the day came when the student could fly, first a smaller version, and later a larger drone. The students reported that they encountered a few mishaps such as running into a bird and getting it stuck in the ceiling of the gym. They were able to do video and photography with the drones. Some of the class members also stated that they will now be able to use a drone when live streaming outdoor events such as football games.
Maras explained that there are a lot of opportunities out there for jobs when a person knows how to use a drone and is licensed to do so. The field encompasses a vast array of job opportunities or even for free-lance work.
She added that at first it was like a child at Christmas. As soon as the drones arrived, the students wanted to open them and fly them. Instead they quickly learned that there was more to it and they first had to learn the rules and best practices. She also said that those rules are constantly changing so the licensing requires regular education.
“Ms. Maras is always thinking outside the box,” stated High School Principal Bill Kehoe, “she gives kids real life experiences.”
Following the two presentations, the board moved on to regular agenda items. During the management and administrative reports, Board member Doug Stahman had a question for elementary principal Shane Monson.
Stahman stated that in his 8 years on the board he has never had so many people approach him about teachers being moved to different grade levels in elementary.
Monson stated that each spring they look at the enrollment numbers for each grade level and make decisions about staffing, which can involve hiring or moving teachers. He said that they take into account how to make the strongest team at each grade level.
“We need to be flexible to move teachers where they will be strongest and have to make management decisions,” he added. “There are times when staff being reassigned may not be happy about the changes.”
Stahman asked if they ever visited with the teaching staff before making these decisiones. “I worry that if a teacher is not happy with the move, the moral level could decrease and a teacher could lose their ability to teach properly,” he added.
Superintendent Troy Ferguson stated that the administration needs to be able to put teachers where they are needed and what is the best for kids. He added that it is a complicated and difficult process. He said he hesitates to make a commitment to needing permission from staff when making moves administration deems necessary and in the best interest of students and the organization. Right of assignment is an administrative responsibility just as in any other organization or business, he added.
“When I talk about staffing, I look at the students first,” Monson added. “What individual staff members want or prefer does not supersede the students’ needs. These are not decisions made quickly. We have been discussing this since February. It is not easy and I get it. We do talk to the teachers when the decision is made.”
The board then accepted six resignations including – Noelle Mickelsen, Elementary Licensed Media Specialist, Christina Buckaway, Paraeducator, Tenly McGinnis, Paraeducator, Paula Hamm, ECSE Paraeducator, Anita Nelson, Head Coach for Swimming and Diving and Deniese Erp, Community Education office manager.
In final action at the meeting, the school board approved ending the mask mandate effective June 3. They will also eliminate other mitigation practices such as temperature taking, social distancing and contact tracing. However, during Summer Sizzle they will continue with the Dashboard and continue to monitor changes throughout the summer as planning for the Fall proceeds.