PAYETTE — Two months into the 2021-22 school year, Payette School District Superintendent Robin Gilbert is managing renovation projects, COVID-19 funding and school climate goals. In her latest report to the district Board of Trustees on Monday, Gilbert’s focus was on how the district is planning for the short- and long-term future for students, staff and facilities.

Following is a sample of Gilbert’s report, and her remarks during the meeting.

School climate

Not referring to the thermostats in the classroom, Gilbert talked about nurturing a positive school culture. Her aim is to improve job satisfaction and maintain positive interactions throughout the district. Her goals, as outlined in the report, are:

1. Staff engagement and School Climate. Nurture a positive school culture that is reflected in job satisfaction and positive interactions and engagement throughout the district. 

2. Every Student Career Ready. Students who graduate from Payette High School will have a viable written operational plan, that directs their next personal steps towards college and/or career.

3. Community engagement. Cultivating relationships with our community stakeholders. Engaging parents in meaningful ways to support the success of each child. 

COVID-19 statistics

Gilbert noted a decrease in positive and probable cases in the previous three weeks within the district’s boundaries. She said in her report that present case counts are comparable to Weiser, and are lower than Fruitland.

“Principals report a significant improvement to daily attendance rates for students and very few reporting positive and few on quarantine,” wrote Gilbert in her report. “Last Monday we had one teacher

out with positive case and one still recovering. Later in the week another teacher tested positive. Zero

classified staff were reported as positive COVID case absences.”

Regarding mask mandates, she pointed out that the staff mandate has been downgraded to a recommendation by the board.

Renovations

Ongoing remodeling work at Presidio High School has caused distractions for students assigned to the campus, in the form of noise pollution. As such, Presidio staff and students will complete their coursework over at the McCain Middle School campus until Christmas break.

“The construction noise is distracting to the educational environment,” Gilbert wrote. “Principals, food service, technology, maintenance, and transportation worked to develop a transition plan. High school administration will maintain oversight for the students and teachers. 

But concerned parents need not worry, said Gilbert to the board; McCain is designed with facilities that can be closed off from the rest of the campus, and the present Presidio enrollment of 15 students does not consist of students with disciplinary issues, she said.

ESSER funding

Gilbert noted that the district’s plans for disbursement of round three of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds are posted on the district’s website. She also noted Gov. Brad Little allotted $10 million of this money to address the substitute teacher shortage the state is experiencing due to COVID-19.

“Districts have received their portion of half ($5m). Money must be used by December 15. I met with area superintendents and staff representatives to design our use of $22,000+. Our goal is providing support and recognition to those who are stepping up to fill the gap in so many areas and encourage applications while following all the COVID spending mandates.”

Staff professional development

According to the report, Payette teachers have been proactive in requesting refresher courses on how to handle topics such as Title IX (avoiding sex-based discrimination in education) and bullying prevention, ahead of updates made to district training on Oct. 1.

“Feedback survey showed strong appreciation for the choice design and the

time to work on the compliance training.”

Gilbert reported that the district continues to push a theme of “Less stress, more joy” by encouraging staff members to try a new hobby. In a meeting planned for Nov. 5, staff will be offered several to try out, including painting, knitting, pickleball, photography, among others.

“The afternoon will be work on their own as they choose.” 

Career readiness

Gilbert reported on meeting with Boise State University representatives in the month prior to this meeting, along with Payette High School principal Jacob Williams and vice principal Marci Holcomb, about participation in a program known as “15 to Start.”

“BSU 15 to Start works in collaboration with rural schools and the Community Impact Program. BSU will assist in getting more Payette teachers qualified to teach dual enrollment course, or students can use Idaho Digital Learning Academy courses. BSU will begin with Juniors to counsel on roadmaps to college (any University) through gaining 15 credits before graduation from high school that will then feed into the foundations and beliefs necessary for success in post-secondary education.”

Emergency management

The Idaho Department of Building Safety is set to conduct audits in each of the district’s buildings. The last audit was conducted in 2018.

“I look forward to comparison to our previous audit from three years ago,” wrote Gilbert in her report. 

She also noted that a quarterly safety meeting in collaboration with county, city, police, fire and school officials is scheduled for November.

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