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Funds sought for Riley Elementary sign
new slt schoolboard-student
Riley Elementary School sixth grader Norma Blair, left, stands with Principal Joann Blevins, Thursday at the Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education meeting. Last November, Blair received the Exemplary Student Award from the Great Bend Masonic Lodge No. 15. Shes also been nominated and is in the running to attend a junior leadership conference in Washington, D.C. - photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

Riley School is $1,000 closer to its goal of having an electronic sign on 10th Street.
The school hosted the Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education luncheon meeting on Thursday, Jan. 25. At that meeting, the board formally accepted a $1,000 donation from the Barbara Boyd Memorial for the Riley Elementary School sign fund.
Principal Joann Blevins said this donation brings the total raised to $8,600 and the goal is about $10,000. She hopes a sign can be purchased in the next year so that messages about school events can be posted in English and Spanish.

The school board also accepted a $100 donation to Great Bend High School from Kansas Truck and Equipment. The contribution is in response to a Project Graduation Grant the company offered to schools submitting photos of new buses. A photo of the new Panther Activity bus in action was selected for the company’s website, Superintendent Khris Thexton said.

Blevins and staff provided the building report. As of today, there are 375 students in grades preK-6 attending Riley Elementary. There is one half-day session for 3-year-olds and three sections for 4-year-olds. There are also two sections for each grade K-6.
• 78 percent of the students are Hispanic; 28 percent are white
• 95 percent are eligible for free or reduced-price meals
• 11 percent have been identified with some kind of disability
• 74 percent are learning English
• 7 percent are migrant students
Blevins said the percentage of students learning English is lower than it used to be, as Hispanic families are staying in Great Bend and second- and third-generation students are enrolling. The percentage of migrant students has also decreased; it used to be 15-20 percent. This includes students who spend part of the year in another state.
“Some mobility is related to poverty,” Blevins said, noting children may move to be with other family members in tough economic times.
The high percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals reflects that “95 percent of our kids live in some sort of poverty, which is by far our biggest challenge,” she said.
Getting involved with students at an earlier age can help the staff establish relationships with families and learn the needs of the children before they get to kindergarten, she said.

Board member Don Williams asked if the district plans to move sixth graders into the middle school, and how the space would be used.
“It’s been discussed,” Thexton said. Space will be a consideration if the district decides to move sixth graders. It could mean more classrooms for more preschool sections.
Blevins said there are five or six preschoolers on the waiting list at Riley and she expects the numbers to grow as parents share positive feedback with others in the community.
Board member Jacquie Disque asked whether the success of USD 428 preschools is a problem for private preschools.
Thexton said it could be, although many parents choose those preschools for religious education or for location. From the educators’ perspective, if children start coming to Great Bend schools at age 3, “that’s two more years of education” and social support.

A room for parents
Instructional coaches and other educators at Riley also contributed to Thursday’s presentation as they explained how they coordinate teaching tailored to each student. Blevins also shared her idea to convert one room at the school into a Parents Lounge in the future.
Parents and staff could come together and discuss goals over coffee, Blevins said. Or, as parents come to the school to volunteer, they will have a space “that’s just their own. This is their school as much as it is their children’s school and our school,” she said.