December school board roundup


The Alder School Board discussed leftover lunch money as part of last Thursday evening’s meeting.

The district is on the Summer Lunch Program currently and there is leftover money in parents’ accounts. The board asked the clerk to see if parents preferred to get the remaining money back or keep it in their account.

The new speed monitor to be installed a bit further away from the school building is still in the works. Some cows hit the old speed monitor and the district is working on getting that fixed. Hunters and fishermen who do not expect a school to be on that stretch of road tend to miss the speed signs.

“It’s been a problem, we’re solving it,” Madison County Superintendent Pam Birkeland said.

The board did a final reading on Title IV polices regarding sexual harassment. As these polices were revised by the state, the board had to conduct two readings for the revisions. Birkeland will be the Title IV coordinator, taking over the training and coordination to take a task of the lead teacher’s plate.

Alder School District staff will receive bonuses for the extra work they have done reopening and keeping the school open during the pandemic.

“That’s really nice for the staff. They’ve been working very hard,” Birkeland said.


Sheridan School District will move forward with the Early Kindergarten Program. The school board heard the second reading of a new policy pertaining to enrollment and exceptional circumstances regarding an age requirement waiver, and a second reading of a revised policy pertaining to entrance, placement and transfer of students.

A teacher has been hired for the fully accredited, morning half-day program. The Early Kindergarten Program will begin the second semester of the school year, after the holidays.

Board Chair Kendra Horn mentioned that attendance levels are back up. “We’ve got pretty much a full house and we’re feeling like we did a pretty good job for the first part of the year,” she said, considering the complications brought on by the coronavirus.

The school board reported on the beginning of basketball practices. Competitions will not begin until late January. Away teams will be limited to two guests per player and home teams to four with gymnasiums capped at 200.


The Ennis School Board heard from two architectural firms regarding the high school expansion, who explained what services they could offer to the project. Superintendent Casey Klasna will develop and draft a Request For Qualification (RFQ) to present to the board next month. The district will continue with the process of choosing a firm.

A new bus was purchased for the district’s McAllister route. The old bus saw several thousands of hours on gravel roads and was ready to be put to rest. Money will come from available bus depreciation funds.

There will not be a winter adult education program session due to coronavirus concerns. Directors of the program will work on operation manuals, surveys and planning classes, among other things, to potentially start again in the spring.

Klasna gave a summary of the school’s reopening plan during his superintendent report. “It was noted that every day things could change. It just depends on where we’re at,” he said. Things are going well, and the administrative team meets often to discuss the situation, listening to feedback from parents, staff, school board and the community, he continued.

Onsite Covid tests are offered to students with parent permission at Ennis Schools. If a student is experiencing symptoms according to a checklist on the school website, they have the option to receive a test. Test or no test, if the symptoms follow the checklist the student will be sent home.

A courier from the state public health lab takes samples to the state lab and results can be received within 24 hours. The full-time school nurse, employed through a partnership with the Madison Valley Medical Center and the district, is paid through coronavirus relief funds. Tests are available for free to students and staff.

“It saves parents from having to schedule time to go to the clinic,” Klasna said.

Regarding basketball, the gym will be capped at a 200 capacity and county schools will allow four home team fans and two away fans per game.

Twin Bridges

Enrollment numbers rolled through many elements of the Twin Bridges School Board meeting last Tuesday evening.

The board discussed moving to six-man middle and high school football teams. Both football coaches spoke at the Nov. 8 meeting, making note of the challenges of practicing with so few players.

“We can’t improve when we’re practicing against air,” Board Chair Steve Janzen said, recalling what the middle school football coach said. According to Janzen, each board member was interesting in pursuing a co-op with Sheridan Schools. The board passed the six-man football consideration and now awaits approval from the Montana High School Association (MHSA) before moving forward.

The budget committee met before the monthly board meeting. With declining enrollment, the district looks to reducing expenditures in a few areas—retirement incentive plans/severance packages, programs and force. “We determined to have another meeting this coming week to further discuss it,” Janzen said. He mentioned that eventually if revenue keeps going down and expenditures going up, it is not sustainable for the district.

The Average Number of Belonging (ANB) is a term used for the number of children in attendance in a district and is used for state funding calculations. Funds derived from this number go toward staff salaries and benefits, extracurricular activities and curriculum costs. Less students results in a lower ANB number and eventually in lower funding for districts.

A special meeting will be held next week to further discuss budget items.

For basketball, Twin Bridges Schools will allow two visiting team fans per student and four for home teams, capping gymnasiums at 200.


This school year, Harrison School District adjusted their schedule, creating a third lunch hour. To make that work, the district had to add three minutes to the school day.

Fourth grade students were given a zero-period study hall, beginning at 7:46 a.m. Fifth and sixth grade students were already starting school at this time with an early band practice. “By doing that it created enough extra minutes in the day that we can put another five days of vacation on the schedule,” Superintendent Fred Hofman said. One of those days will be split in half and used around the winter break.

The board discussed using some of the remaining days to compensate for potential Covid-related closures. A concern this year has been regarding available substitute teachers and lack of buses. Having backup days off could help.

A new assistant boys’ basketball coach was hired. The board reviewed athletic participation requirements for virtual learning junior high school students. It was determined these students would be allowed to participate as long as they are otherwise eligible and comply with school Covid rules.

The Montana School Board Association recommends districts adopt all Covid policies. The Harrison School Board discussed these policies last month and conducted a second reading during the meeting on Dec. 14. The board will decide in January if they want to adopt all polices.

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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