DUS Board of Education approves purchase of district transportation vehicles

DOWAGIAC — Dowagiac Union Schools made moves to bolster its transportation capabilities during Monday’s Board of Education meeting at Dowagiac Middle School.

The board approved the purchase of an 88-passenger general purpose bus for the district, featuring technology systems and totaling $74,000. In addition, the board approved the purchase of a 10-passenger van totaling no more than $45,000.

According to superintendent Jonathan Whan, the district will save $36,000 by purchasing a used bus over a typical brand-new bus purchase.

“This is a bus coming off a lease,” Whan said. “That’s what we’re focusing on. A mechanic will tell you that they prefer to have buses broken-in. We still look for many years and many miles of service and a reduced price.”

Whan said the typical lifespan of a school bus is roughly 14 years.

“It comes down to wear and tear in a typical year,” Whan said. “It’s normally not the body or the engine, but it comes down to the frame because of its exposure to salt, rust and so forth. The industry standard is 14 years. A bus replacement rotation of every 14 years or so has been the industry standard.”

The board also approved the hiring of Heather Snyder as a fifth-grade teacher at Sister Lakes Elementary. Snyder arrived in Dowagiac from Nevada, and while not originally from the area, Whan said that Snyder’s family has a cottage on Cable Lake.

“She is familiar with our communities, which was part of her desire to come back to the area,” Whan said. “She comes to us with quality experience and a tremendous wealth of knowledge. She is very well diverse in her teaching experience. We stole her from out west, and we are very happy she hit the ground running. We have heard very positive things in her first couple weeks, so we’re just very excited.”

Snyder’s hiring allows the district to activate its math literacy coach. Alicia Stout will transition from her position as fifth grade teacher at Sister Lakes Elementary to become a math coach for the district, focusing on math grade levels four to six.

“That is her area of expertise and experience,” Whan said. “As time goes on with her training and her work with staff, it’ll become a true K-through-six position, so we’re very excited about that.”

In his superintendent report, Whan said the district is discussing the idea of adding telephones to classrooms throughout the district, which will help with staff-parent and staff-staff communications within the district.

“The cost does not seem to be prohibitive at this time,” Whan said. “Our goal is to have some more clarity later this spring, with possible recommendation this spring for a project either late spring or over the summer.”

Whan also said the district will bring a recommendation to the board next month for a one-year adjustment to the graduation requirements regarding assessments, with the goal of working within the restrictions the district has faced due to COVID.

“The graduation requirement is based on the state assessment requirements because last spring we weren’t able to give all of the juniors the MME and the SAT,” Whan said. “The state has kind of waived that requirement but it’s in our policy to have. Right now, we’re not able to guarantee all students could have all that testing done before graduation, so we’re going to be asking for your permission to do that.”

In other business:

  • The board reconfirmed its COVID-19 plan, which must be reconfirmed every month.

“This is the monthly action the board of education is required to make as a part of the schooling fund that was passed this fall,” Whan said. “Each month, we will be bringing this to the board to recommit to the plan we set for the district.”

The district’s COVID-19 plan adheres to the guidelines listed in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Safe Schools Return to School Roadmap, which the district will continue to follow despite Whitmer’s executive orders being struck down by the Michigan Supreme Court.

The plan includes the district’s responses to different scenarios, including having to transition to brief periods of distance learning in the event of new positive COVID-19 cases in the district.

The reconfirmation of the plan, as well as changes to the plan, must be submitted to the Michigan Department of Education each month.

The COVID-19 plan in its entirety can be found on the district’s website.

  • The board approved the appointment of Pamela Dickinson to the Michigan Association of School Boards Board of Directors.

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