This week’s paper has its annual bus route and schedule. If you’re a parent of a schooler who rides the bus, you’ll want to save that section out of the paper for further reference as you get into the groove of when to push your back-pack laden kiddos out the door in the morning, and when to expect them to arrive back home every afternoon. Patty Jones has provided us with that list for many years, and while there’s talk that she may be retiring in the somewhat near future, she won’t be replaced by ousted middle school principal Melinda Snow as had been rumored early this summer. The personnel shuffle at the bus barn hasn’t occurred yet. It’s likely that a current transportation department employee is being groomed to take over that position at some future date.
Over at the middle school, the shuffling has already taken place: Leslie McCourt-Nussman has moved to Moab from posts in Virginia and northern Utah, bringing promises of collaboration to the office of principal. Snow, whose school among others in the district has seen challenges with bullying and which occupies the oldest, most outdated school building in the district, is still in place as a district employee. She has worked here for well more than a dozen years, and will now be in charge of after-school programs for the district.
Administrative shake-ups are to be expected, and like most personnel issues, they can be unpleasant. Challenges in our school district are great. We have poor test scores and school rankings, financial needs, peer issues, students whose families live below the poverty line, and capital needs that have taken a long time to be addressed. But we are little different from most school districts in our state.
The school district has blue prints in hand for the new middle school to be located behind, or east, of the current facility. That’s a smart place to put it. The athletic fields there will have to be sacrificed, but solutions can be worked out to utilize other lawns that the district maintains. When it comes time to move into the new digs, stuff can go right out the back doors.
I’m a little sad about the old school being razed. The 1960s building was first a high school, built in the late uranium boom times when the district’s needs outgrew the Center Street facility—that became a middle school, then was abandoned for a time—before it was remodeled into city hall. Just about the time I attended the middle school in the 1970s on Center Street, people stopped calling those middle grades “junior high,” and it officially became Grand County Middle School for a long time. Now when I’m in City Hall, I can’t help but remember what the various rooms were used for. Funnily, the city council meets in the old science room, and the principal’s office was where the city manager operates.
Our current and aged middle school, whose iconic diamond-shaped eyebrows cast light into the interior gymnasium, probably lacks the panache of being truly vintage. But I’ve always liked it just the same. That old school’s proximity to Main Street and the busy back-road of City Market hasn’t been ideal all these years as Moab’s downtown has gotten more frenetic and magnetizing for kids who might want to skip class. As for the new middle school being just a little closer to the high school, there are both synergies and challenges. It’s important to segregate the younger populace from the older high schoolers, but the issues probably won’t be much different from the current situation.
School safety is the cause for new construction projects at the high school’s entrance and tech center. Gone are the days when folks could shuffle right into the facility during class hours without being funneled through the office and approved for admission by staff. Aside from construction of new entrances, training sessions will be underway to help teachers and emergency personnel respond to gun-related emergencies. Those ugly scenarios have happened too many other places to believe that it couldn't ever happen here. These new trainings are an expensive necessity.
So if you hear what you think is the second coming of Christ this Saturday morning, fear not, it is just an “active shooter” training schedule at the high school. The exercise will simulate what could happen and how and who should respond. It’s a sad fact that time, money and resources have to be spent on the protection of our kids and faculties even before we can open the text books on a new school year. But it’s necessary, and hopefully will provide a physical and “best practices” barrier around our schools.
Every school year brings new changes and challenges. It also brings new promise as kids come back to class with rested brains, ready to tackle another grade of learning.