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Nevis looks to grant match for early childhood facility

Nevis School District is applying for a $500,000 matching grant to construct Early Childhood classrooms on the east side of the elementary school.

"A remote Early Childhood facility creates a number of problems," superintendent Steve Rassier reminded the school board this week, including little ones trudging across the parking lot to the school.

A preliminary plan for the Early Childhood Family Education facility projects the cost at just over $1 million.

The 5,100-square-foot floor plan includes two ECFE rooms, restrooms, an office, parent room and a mechanical room.

ECFE programs are currently based in a house purchased by the district in the early 1990s, opening in 1992. A classroom was added on the west side with a second added in 1999.

Enrollment is 40 in the 4-year-old preschool classes, 20 in the 3-year-old classes. ECFE classes are held Fridays and Head Start Tuesdays.

Three teachers and two aides are employed, with special education and other educational services offered.

The 2011 Legislature appropriated $1.9 million for grants through the Department of Human Services to construct or rehabilitate ECFE buildings. Priority is to be given to programs that operate in cities or counties with the highest percentage of children living in poverty.

Sixty-three percent of Nevis elementary students qualify for free and reduced lunch and approximately 60 percent of the early childhood children qualify, Rassier said.

The structure would continue the current collaboration between the school and ECFE, Rassier said.

The ECFE classrooms are part of the district's strategic plans.

If the district is not approved for the funding, Nevis will continue to seek grants for the project, he said.

In other action, the board:

n Approved resignations and applications for the early retirement program from special education teacher Louise Shay and math teacher Keith Minkel, both commended for their years of service to the district.

n Heard an update on the school's robotics program from student Aaron Halik and advisor Olaf Netteberg. Nevis works with a $9,000 budget and competes against schools with $100,000 to work with, Netteberg pointed out of the recent competions.

But that has not diminished student or adult enthusiasm for the robot, who this year played defense on the robotics basketball team. Its human counterparts (Nevis students) earned kudos from judges for their well-organized workplace, Netteberg said.

The robotics team is looking for retired electrical and mechanical engineers willing to volunteer time and talents.

Contact Andrew Dahlby at the Nevis School at 652-3500.

n Learned the Lindow Scholarship Dinner date has been changed to Saturday, April 28 due to a change in the prom date, which will be held May 5.

A grand march will be held at 6 p.m. in Tiger Arena then students will board buses for dinner and dancing at Blueberry Pines from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m.

n Heard a legislative update from board member Gary Stennes.

"They are spending so much time on amendments, they're getting nothing done," he said of the voter ID issue.

"It would be a nightmare," Stennes told the board, estimating the cost to be in the millions.

Legislators are also considering changing school referendums to election years only. "This is serious," he said. "We would have to wait 18 months if we get the grant," he said of a possible referendum to fund the ECFE facility.