School Board approves new principal

Tour reviews issues with LIW Elementary building

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De Smet Board of Education met Monday night and tackled a lengthy list of agenda items. First and foremost was the naming of the new junior high and high school principal and athletic director

When the current high school principal, Andrew Armstead announced his resignation at the last school board meeting, the school district had been busy searching for a replacement. A total of ten applications were received. Out of the ten applications, three candidates were selected for interviews. Daniel Bettin from Minnesota was the last candidate to interview for the position. He was also selected as the new principal, and on Monday night the school board officially approved hiring him as the junior and high school principal and the athletic director

Armstead also performed duties as the technology coordinator, but Bettin will not be assuming those responsibilities. De Smet and Iroquois will share an IT employee between the two school districts.

In other personnel news for the district athletic director, Becky Geyer, had tendered her resignation. The school board approved Geyer’s resignation and thanked her for her services. The board also approved the resignations of K-12 school counselor, Kari Dossett, second grade teacher Roxy Fast, paraprofessional Linsey Jeffers, and Angela Ostrander, the assistant girls’ basketball coach.

elementary school issues

The school board took a tour of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Elementary School Building. The school has many issues that would require extensive work to repair. Some of the items that need work include:

• The electrical in the building is more than 60 plus years old. Classrooms have too few electrical outlets. In the 1960’s a classroom did not have much need for electricity. Nowadays, classrooms have computers, educational displays, and many other electrical devices. How do you meet the electrical needs in a classroom that has too few outlets? Extension cords can be a tripping hazard. Almost every room in the elementary building needs an electrical upgrade.

• The elementary building uses a boiler system to heat the rooms during the winter. Some rooms have little control over the heat in their rooms. This makes some of the classrooms too hot, and either window air conditioning equipment (further complicating electrical needs), or opening a window are your only choices to keep the room from getting too hot. The twelve-year-old boiler makes concerning noises when it is operating, and it is not working at peak performance.

• ADA compliance is another factor to consider. In 1960, there was no ADA. The building was constructed with steps inside, and at exits and entrances. The school district has tried to keep up with the standards, but in doing so, the Fire Marshall that performs a Fire and Safety Inspection addresses a ramp that blocks a small portion of egress from a classroom. Facilities need to be designed and reconstructed to meet all requirements and guidelines for the safety of the children, staff, and visitors.

• Plumbing is a major problem. Sixty-year-old sewer pipes are going to collapse, and many have already failed at the school. Finding the collapse is difficult if a collapse has caused a backup. Using a locator with a sewer camera, you can usually find the area of concern. To initiate repairs, one must jackhammer through the concrete foundation, repair the section, fill the hole with concrete, and retile the floor. Sure, you can fix all the collapses, but sixty-year-old sewer pipes are going to continue to collapse., and the school will be forced to perform expensive and extensive repairs in the future, over and over again. The plumbing issues are not just in a certain area, they span over the whole building. Classroom bathrooms, the kitchen has significant issues, gym bathrooms, and many sinks throughout the school building.

• The Administration offices need to be moved toward a main entrance to control the flow of traffic in and out of the elementary building. This is a safety issue, but having a larger office area could keep the administration working in one central area, instead of separate little rooms used as offices. Speaking of size, look at the size of some of the classrooms. Some are small and tight, but the teachers and staff just “make do,” since that is all they have.

Issues outside include concerns with the blacktop near the school building. Repairs need to be made. Concrete sidewalk and steps require quite a bit of work too. ADA compliance for ramps needs to be made at some entrances. Sidewalks have huge cracks needing repairs and some steps had chipped or broken off so much that one can see the rebar poking out.

These were just a few of the issues. The building is sixty years old and has served its purpose.

When the costs to repair, remodel and address all the areas of concern hits around 75% of the cost of building a new addition, the practical person would choose the new addition. Even making repairs, you still will not have any guarantees that other areas of the sewer lines will not collapse as well.

Two items pertaining to the possible funding of the construction of an elementary addition were tabled until the May 9 School Board regular meeting.

There will be a Community Meeting on April 21 at the LIW gym at 6:30pm. This would be a great opportunity to tour the building and see the issues that the school district faces and ask questions. Whether you are in favor of a new elementary addition or against it, you should be informed. Please plan to attend.

Junior and High School Principal, Armstead gave a report to the board about the junior and high school activities. He told the board that the Lake County Sheriff's Department will give a presentation on Drinking and Driving on April 13. Students from Willow Lake, Lake Preston, Arlington, and Iroquois High Schools will be joining the De Smet students.

State rules mandate that each graduating high school student must have completed a CPR class during their high school time. On April 20 the eighth grade and seniors will be taking a CPR class to meet those requirements.

The Prom will be April 22, with a drive up scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

Graduation will be May 7 in the High School Armory and it will start at 2 p.m.

Mrs. Geyer will be taking Math students to Duebrook on April 27 to compete in the D&D Math Contest. This competition has not occurred in the past two years due to COVID.

Sanford Underground Research Facility will be visiting the school to talk about Dark Matter, Life in a Borehole, and Neutrinos. The presentations will be April 29 for grades 6-12.

School Superintendent, Abi Van Regenmorter gave the board the elementary update. Students will be finishing state testing this week. She also reported that spring field trips will be starting soon, and the students will also be traveling to South Dakota State University to see a children’s play.

Athletic Director, Becky Geyer reported to the school board about a successful winter sports program. Wrestling and both basketball teams did well. She also advised that there were still some upcoming basketball awards in the works. She told the board that the school’s athletic banquet will be held May 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the De Smet Event Center.

The board approved the Music Booster’s trip in the spring of 2024 to Chicago. Students from 9-12 grade will be performing on the trip that is scheduled for the end of March and first part of April in 2024.

The school board approved the 2022-2023 Negotiated Agreement with the district's teachers. This agreement for next year raises the base salary for teachers from $43,000 to $44,000, covers the rising cost of health insurance, and gives all current teachers a 6% pay raise.

• The board approved membership in the South Dakota High School Activities Association for the 2022-23 school year.

• The board accepted a Health Insurance Contract for FY 2023. The policy has a $1,000 deductible that only 19% of South Dakota School Districts are offering.

• A new assistant golf coach position was approved, and selection should follow soon.

• The board selected Shane Roth from De Smet out of a ballot of five candidates for a position on the Associated School Boards of the South Dakota Board of Directors.

• Teacher and Staff Appreciation Week will be May 2-6. There will be changes from last year, so staff will need to wait to find out what is planned.

• The board closed with an executive session and no motions being made afterwards.

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