County schools win health grant

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Marshall County has been awarded a grant of nearly $215,000 to finance physical education and wellness at all the schools.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the school board's transportation committee says the system needs more buses, or bus routes must be changed.

As a bus-funding request is going to the County Commission, the system's grant writer, Nancy Aldridge, announced the Mind-Body Connection grant to school board members on Monday. She explained that 90 percent of the $214,300 grant will be used to provide exercise equipment and materials for the students, and the remaining 10 percent will pay for an after-school fitness program for faculty, students, and parents who wish to participate.

Aldridge said that the program would operate from November 2010 to June 2011. It will be available three days per week for one hour after school. Each site will have one teacher responsible for making equipment available, taking periodic measurements, and assisting participants.

Board members unanimously voted to accept the grant, and also to approve a pay rate of $20 per hour for teachers who facilitate the program. The negotiating committee approved this pay rate on Oct. 26, Aldridge wrote in her memo to board members.

Aldridge told school board members she also wants to apply for a Safe Routes to School grant.

Curt Denton asked if this grant could be used to improve two-way radio communication with the buses, and Barbara Kennedy wondered if it could be spent on building bus stops. Aldridge said she would look into it.

Another grant she will apply for is the American Honda grant for science and math.

In response to board members' questions, Aldridge said the hard, and time-consuming, part of getting grants was writing the applications. To help her with this, she announced she was taking three teachers from each school and training them to write grant applications.

Still on money matters, board members agreed to ask the county commission to pay for four new school buses, and four new school vans, for next year.

This was the recommendation of the transportation committee. Denton, chairman of the transportation committee, explained that school buses' life span is limited by law to a certain number of years in service, and a specific mileage. By paying the state $1,800 per bus, in certain circumstances a bus can be extended for two years, but Marshall County is already past that point with some of the fleet.

"We're going to need some new buses," Denton concluded.

He assured board members that buses are rotated, so that some buses do not accumulate mileage too quickly by always being used on the longer routes.

The alternative to not getting more buses for next year would be cutting bus routes.

Continuing to describe what's needed, Denton said, "Our van situation is terrible."

He recommended at least four new vans, and said the new state contract prices would be available next month.

Kennedy pointed out that the use of school vans should be limited to groups of students or teachers - if just one or two were going somewhere, a personal vehicle should be used, and reimbursement for mileage made.

Board member Kristen Gold concluded that part of the meeting by reminding members of the transportation committee to work with the county commission's education committee.