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Montezuma-Cortez schools discuss cellphone, attendance policies

Letter recommends phones be collected during class

During a far-reaching school board meeting on Aug. 16, Montezuma-Cortez District Re-1 discussed new policies for students, accommodations for charter schools, an increase of substitute teachers, the fate of Initiative 63, and plans to save money on bus maintenance.

Following is a summary of key points.

Attendance tracking

A spokesperson for Superintendent Tom Buress laid out a plan to hold parents and students accountable for class attendance. There are several community programs that would keep track of attendance and help teachers see which students are struggling.

The program would be voluntary, and to opt into attendance tracking, parents would sign a release form for their child’s attendance to be tracked.

It was unclear what repercussions would be implemented for poor attendance habits.

Cellphone usage

The board also had a deep discussion about school cellphone policies and how they could best ensure that students aren’t on their phones during class or other school activities. The plan will be to implement the policy district-wide.

A letter written to the board regarding the phone policy indicated that all phones must be turned off and placed in a bag or collected by a teacher each period. Phones usage will not be tolerated in class at any time.

This decision came about after a notable increase in negative phone use in the past couple of years, including filming other students and teachers without permission, cyberbullying, posting on social media during class, and watching movies and listening to music during class.

The letter also pointed out that parents who wish to have contact with students during the day can use the student’s school-assigned email.

While they noted it would be difficult to try to implement a no-phones policy on school grounds for the high school, the majority thought it would be a good idea to require children in the elementary and middle schools to keep their phone out of sight all day.

One member expressed concern about not allowing children to have access to their cellphones at lunch, specifically for children who are bullied and use their phone as a way to get away from the stress of the day.

Charter schools

The board passed a motion to allow Battle Rock Charter School to remove a line in its contract that wouldn’t allow the school to enroll more than 90 students. The school requested that this part of the contract be struck out so they could not only accept children who wish to attend the charter but be equal with Kiva Montessori School and Southwest Open School, which don’t have a limit for the number of students the schools can accept in their contracts. Now, Battle Rock Charter will be able to enroll more students as long as they don’t go over their building’s max capacity.

The school expects to exceed 90 students, specifically because of their popular partnership program with homeschooled children in the area.

The board also approved a motion to accept the application for a Pleasant View Charter School and changed the application deadline to Sept. 22 instead of Aug. 1. The charter is tentatively set to open its doors for the 2023-2024 school year.

Increase of substitute teachers

Eleven new substitute teachers were hired, bringing the total number of subs to 38, not including long-term substitutes. The district reviewed their current pay of these teachers to ensure that they are being competitive with other districts and charter schools in the area. They voted unanimously to increase the pay for substitute and SPED teachers.

There are also four ESS positions open at MCHS along with a position open for school health counselor.

Transportation diagnostics system

Director of Finance Kyle Archibeque noted that the district had originally allocated $59,970 to purchase two staff fleet vehicles for the 2022-2023 school year. Instead, he proposed the district buy one fleet vehicle and invest the rest of the money into a Mobile Diagnostic Work Center for the mechanic staff.

This work center would allow staff in the transportation department to diagnose and service buses and other vehicles that are facing mechanical issues. The work center would cost $31,555 but is expected to pay for itself in two years.

Currently, it costs the district $3,000-4,000 to get vehicles serviced at this time, but they would eliminate those costs with the diagnostic work center. The work center is also tax-exempt, and the board unanimously approved this item.

Manaugh playground

Despite Manaugh Elementary closing, the district still has the $100,000 grant given by GoCo for a new school playground. Executive director of student academic services Jim Parr says that his team is in the process of seeing if that grant can be transferred to Mesa Elementary.

If the grant is successfully transferred, the same consultants that were part of building and designing the playgrounds at Lewis and CMS are willing to work on designing the new playground for Mesa.

Initiative 63 and NASPA

Initiative 63, an initiative proposed to increase funding for teachers in the state of Colorado, was struck down by the Colorado state legislature earlier this month.

Board member Cody Wells expressed his disappointment in this decision, and questioned whether the district should pull out of NASPA for not advocating and representing Colorado schools well.

He pointed out that the district was paying too much money to the organization to not get solid representation and advocacy.

Wells said they should try to give their concerns to NASPA and withdraw if those concerns are not met. Currently, at least 27 states have pulled out of NASPA.

Partnership with Eastern New Mexico University

The district has partnered with Eastern New Mexico University for the “Grow Your Own” program. Online classes began Aug. 15, and all interested employees had their questions answered Aug. 10. The university provided in-state tuition for those who decide to register.

The next board work session is Tuesday, Sept. 6 at 6 p.m., and the next board meeting will be Sept. 20 at 6 p.m.