A total of 286 North Platte High graduates received their diplomas Saturday in outdoor ceremonies at Bauer Field.

High School Principal Cory Spotanski told the school board Monday that 128 of the graduates took at least one course at North Platte Community College during high school. And, he said one graduate, Shelby Steele, received her associate’s degree on May 10, completing a course of studies that typically takes two years.

The board signed a resolution noting that the class of 2024 embodies the values of scholarship, integrity, and compassion, serving as role models for future generations. The board extended heartfelt congratulations and best wishes to the graduates, commending them for their accomplishments, celebrating their potential, and looking forward with great anticipation to the positive impact they will make in their future endeavors.

Spotanski also told the board that there were 325 seniors at the beginning of the year, but some dropped out, moved away, or still needed to complete course work to meet graduation requirements.

He also said with the way the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) scholarships were rolled out, he needed more time to total the number of scholarships that the class of 2024 received. 

Food service

The school district’s contract with Sodexo Food Services is expiring, and Finance Director Stuart Simpson presented the board with three meal price options in the renewed contract.

The first is to keep the paid lunches at the same cost as the past five years — $2.40 per meal for elementary students and $2.65 for middle and high school students.

However, Simpson said that the Nebraska Department of Education wants the district to increase the paid lunch prices so they are nearer to the state reimbursement rate of $3.85 per meal for students who qualify for free and reduced-cost meals. When Lundgreen asked what happens if they don’t raise the rate, Simpson said that the state does not punish them.

Simpson said another option would result in a 10-cent increase in school lunches with a guaranteed revenue amount of $105,000, while the third option would increase the lunch prices by 20 cents with a guarantee of $121,000.

School board member Angela Blaesi pointed out that Option 2 would mean an additional $2 per month for each child. Board Vice-President Emily Garrick emphasized that Option 2 would help lower the amount of money they would need to use from the general fund to cover the cost of nutritional services.

The board unanimously approved Option 2, with a 10-cent increase for 2024-25. Therefore, the new lunch prices will be $2.50 for elementary school and $2.75 for middle and high school. 

Learning to speak English

In a report about the the English Learners program, the board learned that the district provides services to students who speak 19 different foreign languages.

Three teachers and four paraprofessionals staff the English Learners (EL) program and serve 145 students. Of the students, 106 are not proficient in English. They are accommodated and receive support from staff and teachers.

The EL staff, North Platte public schools.
Some of the EL staff at North Platte Public Schools: Maria Cano, Mariela Alejandro, Laniya Alexander, Kelli Sheets, and Angelica Trevizo. Photo by Kristi Smith

The EL program consists of five stages: beginning, early intermediate, intermediate, early advanced, and advanced. Advanced students transition from active learners to simply monitor the program.

The program includes designated daily English language instruction of 90 minutes for high school students, while middle school students receive 60 minutes daily. Elementary students are bused to Jefferson Elementary for 30 minutes of daily instruction.

If a parent refuses EL services for their child, the child will still receive necessary accommodations in the classroom. The EL staff also works hard to encourage parent participation. They also offer adult learning opportunities and organize two nights for the entire family each year. 

During the 2023-24 school year, 69% of students were proficient at their level, up from 59% in 2022-23. The EL program has 27 new students signed up for the 2024-25 school year.

Garrick asked why the EL program is available in kindergarten but not preschool. EL Coordinator Kelli Sheets said that federal Rule 15 mandates EL in grades K-12. Sheets also said there are currently no evaluations for the preschool level.

Board member Matt Pederson asked how many students would be moving on to the monitor stage; Sheets said 15 will move to that stage at the start of the next school year.

President JoAnn Lundgreen asked if many of the students participate in sports and extracurriculars. Mariela Alejandre said that most of her middle schoolers participate in some sport, while Sheets said only a few actively participate in high school.

Sheets said she is working to improve participation this year by ensuring the students receive announcements of such activities in a way they understand. Blaesi asked if the students receive any after-school support; Sheets said they currently have very little. 

DARE program

Resource Police Officer Jeremiah Johnson told the board that Officer Megan Brady was the primary DARE teacher this year, with Officer Rory Little teaching DARE in private schools, plus a class at Cody Elementary.

Johnson said 317 students graduated from the DARE program this year.

He said the DARE program has changed from just being a drug prevention program to a program that teaches students to make good decisions and choices. The program consists of 10 lessons over 10 weeks, including resistance strategies, communication skills, and dealing with bullying.

Johnson said the students must show they define, assess, respond, and evaluate decisions they would make in given situations before they graduate. He said this will help them make better decisions in life. Johnson also told the board that Officer Little would be moving back to the patrol unit and that Officer Brady was recently promoted to investigator, but would be back at the school next year as a resource officer. 

Public comment

During the public comment portion of the meeting, one individual spoke. Lana Klein asked the board to remember that property taxes are high and to consider that as they approach budget season. 

In other business, the board approved:

  • One staff resignation and five new teaching contracts. 
  • The financial claims and reports for April. Simpson told the board that the first property tax payment was received, which would improve the cash flow. 
  • The minutes of the April 8 regular meeting of the board.
  • The minutes of the April 16 Board of Education Retreat.
  • The minutes of the April 25 Committee of the Whole meeting.

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