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Atchison Elementary School Associate Principal Andrew Lillie, left, Associate Principal Andrea Coppinger and Principal Lisa Pierce present a report about AES during the Monday’s USD 409 School Board Meeting in the music room at the facility.

For the second consecutive year, the total enrollment count of students attending the Atchison Public Schools is showing a downward trend.

“Our enrollment is dropping,” said Dr. Renee Scott, superintendent of Atchison Public Schools. “It really saddens me.”

The total headcount of Pre-kindergarten throughout 12th-grade students present in their seats on Sept. 21, throughout USD 409 was 1,570 compared to 1,615 for the 2020-21 school year – the total number also includes students attending private schools.

The drop in enrollment numbers throughout some recent school years cost the district about $300,000 to compensate for the decrease of student headcount. Scott delivered the news to USD 409 Board of Education members Monday night, Oct. 11 during their meeting at the Atchison Elementary School. About 14 fewer kindergarteners and a 24-student decrease of sixth-graders reflected big drops in comparison to the previous year.

Despite the declining numbers throughout recent years, the numbers show there has also been a gain of 211 new students in the district, which is still less than the collective losses, Scott said.

The 2019-20 school year and COVID-19 interruption and coronavirus outbreak adversely impacted the district.

Last year about 100 kiddos because of COVID relocated from the district, Scott explained some families experienced job losses, career changes and some moved in with family members elsewhere to sustain their living because of the economic downturns.

“These things affect how we are going to move forward,” Scott said. “There are hard decisions we’ll have to make”

Some decisions might likely center on cutting teacher positions for some classrooms because of fewer students for the grade level.

School trends throughout Kansas are also showing a decrease similar to USD 409, Scott said.

Board members also heard a report from the AES administrators Principal Lisa Pierce, Associate Principal Andrew Lillie, Intermediate grades, and Associate Principal Andrea Coppinger, pre-kindergarten – second-grade, who introduced as one administrative team sharing one vision and one goal. The principals explained some classes and activities implement in the new school year like a STEM Enrichment class, emphasis on emotional learning that replaced character development, and Family Engagement activities. Board members also heard that the numbers of student referrals continue to decrease from previous years.

AES Music Teacher Bradley Weaver has written and composed “Phoenix Soar.” A video was shown featuring the AES pupils performing the number.

Following a 15-minute recess to go into an executive session behind closed doors, board members resumed their public meeting and unanimously voted on some personnel matters:

Accepted a termination of a contract of Lanizisha Collins, a paraeducator, became effective Sept. 17 at AES.

Accepted resignations from Jocelyn Campbell, AES para educator, effective Aug. 13; William “Taylor” White, Atchison Middle School custodian, effective Oct. 12; and from Mike Nigus, a special education teacher at Atchison High School, effective Dec. 31 a release from a contract with an assessment of liquidated damages per agreement.

Approved some recommendations for employment for the 2021-2022 school year: Andrew Raplinger, a para-educator at AMS, effective Sept. 27; Staci Loeffler, paraeducator, at AHS, effective Sept. 27; Regan Magee, paraeducator, AMS, effective Oct. 11; and Kelly Wedgeworth LPN, as the USD 409 COVID Tester, effective Monday, Nov. 1.

Approved six supplemental contracts: AMS – Bridget Baker, Seventh-grade Team leader, and Girls Head Basketball Coach Rachael Baumgartner; and AHS — Softball Coach Jennifer Felvus, Assistant Girls Basketball Coach Paxton Throne, Assistant Girls Basketball Coach Jaleia Rice, and Scholars Bowls Coach Janet Coco.

Concerning other matters, Board members:

Unanimously approved the consent agenda that included acceptance of the following donations for Kids Closet Donation from Cloud L. Cray Foundation and the Football Program donation from BUNGE, and merit pay for staff to compensate them for extra duties performed because of the coronavirus to be paid from the allocated funds the district received to offset added expenses due to the pandemic.

Unanimously approved participation in the Neighborhood Revitalization Program Interlocal Agreement that includes the designated Target Areas that are within USD 409 boundaries.

Unanimously reaffirmed Policies JK to JS as resented on second reading.

Heard a public comment from Barbara Chapman who thanked board members for the current mask mandate and COVID-19 policy inside school properties district wide. Chapman said she agrees with the board’s decision 100 percent and that COVID has hit her family hard through the recent death of her father. Chapman thank the Board members for caring, told them they are doing a good job by showing they care for all in the Atchison Public School System.

Heard a report from Scott that Kansas health officials are training some staff and administrators how to use COVID Rapid Tests.

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