ELPS Board Talks Sex Education, Changes in Busing and Immigration
Little action was taken at Monday night’s Board of Education meeting but plenty of information was provided by the Board and administration about new directions for the District, including updated sex education goals, new busing routes and an upcoming policy change on immigration.
The Board is also currently taking applications for a new board member. Trustee Yasmina Bouraoui announced two weeks ago that she is resigning her board seat as Oct. 27. She cited personal reasons for the change, adding that she is exploring changes in her life which may include downsizing her home and moving out of the area. Monday night was her final board meeting.
Current and former Board members thanked her for her service and wished her the best.
“I’m grateful for what you’ve given to our kids, especially those without a voice. You will be greatly missed,” said former board member Donna Kaplowitz as she presented Bouraoui with flowers.
Anyone interested in applying for the vacant seat must submit their application to Trustee Hillary Henderson by 4 p.m. Tuesday Oct. 24. Board President Nell Kuhnmuench hopes to interview candidates and vote on a new Board member following the November 13 Board meeting.
Mary Ellen Vrbanac, Director of Sex Education for the District, walked the Board through a series of goals laid out by the Sex Education Advisory Board. First on the list is evaluating the consent and safety content to determine whether there is a need for additional lessons. The committee is also working to approve curriculum for secondary developmentally delayed special education students, and ensuring that LGBTQ students are included throughout the curriculum.
“We had some questions about whether the lessons applied to students who weren’t straight,” Vrbanac said. “They weren’t sure protections applied to students who aren’t straight… We have some work to do with that.”
Finally the committee wants to add an 11th grade sexual health “refresher” course for two weeks to help remind students of lessons taught in 9th grade such as how to access community resources. This refresher course may take place during the student’s Excel time and parents, as always, will have the ability to opt their child out of the lessons.
The Board approved the new Sexual Health Education handbook created by the SEAB, now available online here. In addition to overviews of sexual health curricula, the website includes links to the results of surveys taken by both parents and students in 7th-12th grade in spring 2016.
RED CEDAR CONSTRUCTION
In her update regarding school construction, Superintendent Dori Leyko said changes have been made to the site plan for Red Cedar Elementary school following the community forum earlier this month.
Architects have incorporated the suggestions about making traffic through the school’s drop-off loop one way only, a change which also allowed them to incorporate another suggestion to make parking spots at an angle to improve visibility.
In addition, they have added bike racks to the site map. However, they are not able to add some of the other suggestions such as attaching solar panels to the roof, or creating a green roof. Leyko did say they will be running conduit to the parking lot in hopes that they could add some solar panels to a canopy over the parking island or courtyard in the future. She said they will continue to look into adopting reusable cafeteria trays.
Transportation Director Rich Pugh told the Board that in response to parent concerns about overcrowding on school busses, the District and Dean Transportation have made a few changes. Starting Tuesday Oct. 24, the Turtle bus in the afternoon will drop off high schoolers before going to the middle school to pick up those students. This will alleviate some of the crowding in the afternoon. In addition, they have moved fifteen middle school riders off the Butterfly bus and onto the less crowded Penguin bus to balance out the ridership. All students affected have been notified, Pugh said.
In addition, Dean will be doing another ridership count this week.
NEW IMMIGRATION POLICY
In announcements, Trustee Yasmina Bouraoui told the Board that next month the Policy Committee will be bringing the Board a new policy on how the district deals with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Traditionally, ICE officials have agreed not to enforce immigration laws on school grounds, but the policy titled “Interaction with Immigration Officials” will direct school officials to refuse to cooperate with ICE officials unless they have a subpoena. The policy has gone to the District’s legal counsel for review and will be brought up for a vote at the Nov. 13 board meeting.
High School Principal Andy Wells and Assistant Principal Nick Hamilton reported to the Board on high school achievement data. The information included data on SAT scores and Advanced Placement tests. In April 2017, 262 East Lansing juniors took the SAT test and 53 percent met the benchmarks for the test, Hamilton said.
For the Advanced Placement tests, East Lansing averages two tests per year per student. In 2017, 340 students took AP tests and 79 percent passed with a score of 3 or above (out of a possible 5). Hamilton noted that over a three year period, the number of tests have risen dramatically but even more so for Asian and African-American students.
“Students are now starting to realize the importance of taking the tests and what it means to score a 3 or above, and how that benefits their college experience,” Wells said. “Students are starting to realize the bar is up here. They can actually attain that level of excellence.”
Wells and Hamilton also reviewed the High School’s new academic eligibility process for student athletes. Previously a final semester grade would be used to determine eligibility for the next semester. Now eligibility is determined every four weeks, and students with grades higher than an E in all classes are deemed eligible. Students with one or two Es will be on probation, but can still play, and students with three Es are not eligible to play for week and must bring the grades up before they can return to the team.
So far, there are 331 total athletes in fall sports. On Oct. 13, seven students had one E, six students had 2 Es and four were considered ineligible to play due to three failing grades.
Trustee Bouraoui mentioned that student athletes often had time between the end of classes and the start of practices where they could have academic study time with their teams. Wells said it has been discussed but they would need to provide adult supervision.