News and Information for the Week of January 12, 2015
Click on the links below to read this week's stories and learn more about school facility planning activities.
1. Superintendent's Weekly Newsletter
2. Learn About Facilities at helenaschools.info
3. Influenza Arrives in Helena
January 13, 2015
The Montana Legislature will be considering a slate of education bills; some will have minimal impact to what happens routinely for students attending Helena Public Schools. By contrast, SB107 slated for the Senate Education Committee meeting next Monday, January 19th at 3:00 p.m., has the potential to profoundly alter the high school delivery system for 3,000 students attending Helena High School and Capital High School. SB107 sets the stage for an existing elementary district to expand into a K-12 school district for the purposes of serving high schools students.
You might be asking what does this mean and why would it affect our students? Let me try to explain. Currently, Helena Public Schools or School District #1, is comprised of the Helena Elementary District for grades K-8 and the Helena High School District for grades 9-12. In addition to serving students from the Helena Elementary District, the Helena High School District provides a high school education to elementary students from East Helena, Wolf Creek, and Canyon Creek. East Helena, in addition to two other K-8 Districts -- Lockwood in Billings and Hellgate in Missoula -- are pushing this piece of legislation to allow their communities to have their own high school. SB107 is touted as a local control bill because local voters will be able to choose if they want to change their existing school district structure and incur tax changes as well.
Should this bill pass in its current form, it will be a watershed decision permanently affecting all students in the Helena High School District. Does this sound complicated? It is complicated, unnecessary and doesn’t guarantee additional benefits to students. If East Helena is successful in building a high school just a few miles down the road, here are just a few of the anticipated impacts:
- Helena Public Schools high school enrollment could drop by about 475 students to attend the East Helena high school.
- Proponents state another smaller high school in the Helena area will provide a better education for those students. Although research does support smaller high schools, specific academic achievement data in Montana does not support this argument. When compared to other Montana high schools of 300-500 students, the Helena high school district competes well. From graduation rates to remediation percentages to student/teacher ratios, Helena’s educators prepare all students on the same level as smaller schools. All this data can be found on the Office of Public Education’s (OPI) website, which was compiled on the attached spreadsheet.
- The Helena high school district budget would see an approximate $3 million reduction, forcing the lay-off of roughly 40+ educators, since our district spends about 90% of its budget on salaries and benefits.
- All 3,000 high school students loose educational programs. Due to the financial cuts and personnel lay-offs, programs would be cut at Helena schools. Data shows that a high school the size of the one proposed in East Helena would not be able to afford to offer programs at the level currently provided by CHS and HHS.
When it comes to SB107, arguments for local control and parent choice may dominate the conversation, but the arguments don’t ring true when considering what is best for students. It would be better for us to join forces and focus on what we can do together to improve our schools and use current public resources to enhance education, not divide our community and provide students less than what they need to be college and career ready. Stay tuned… the legislative session is just beginning.
Kent Kultgen, Ed.D.
Influenza Arrives in Helena
Helena Public Schools and Lewis and Clark City County Health Department want you to be aware that our community is experiencing a sharp increase in flu cases as is most of the nation. The flu season usually runs from October through March with increased flu activity during or after holidays when families are gathering and traveling.
Public health officials recommend an annual flu shot to help protect you and your family. Everyone over 6 months of age and those who are at high risk of flu related complications are urged to get immunized.
Flu viruses change constantly from season to season and even within the same season. Each year the flu vaccine is designed to protect against three or four different flu viruses, based on which are expected to be most common that year. This season, there is one strain that has mutated and the vaccine doesn’t match. However, the flu vaccination is still recommended for all.
Symptoms of the flu may include: sudden onset of fever, headache, chills, muscle aches and pains, a dry nonproductive cough ,decreased energy , abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.
Flu can be caught by being in direct contact with a sneeze or cough from a person who has the flu, or by touching contaminated surfaces such as faucets, door knobs and not washing hands before touching face and or eating.
Those with flu-like illnesses should stay home for at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever or signs of fever without using fever reducing medications ( like acetaminophen ( Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) We discourage the use of aspirin in children under the age of 18.
Prevention of flu includes:
- Vaccination ( still highly recommended),
- Hand washing often and especially before eating,
- Covering coughs, avoid touching face, eyes or nose, and especially
- STAYING HOME WHEN SICK…
Contact your family health care provider if you or your child has flu like symptoms. Medication may be prescribed that may help in the severity and length of illness.
If you have questions, check with your school nurse, health care provider or Lewis and Clark City County Health Department, at 443-2584.