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Little Panthers Preschool plans continue
usd 428 district office web
USD 428 District Education Center

Eisenhower Elementary School Principal JoAnn Blevins told the Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education that plans are moving forward to open the Little Panthers Preschool at the former Head Start location, which closed in 2019. The property at 3400 21st St. will be leased from the First Congregational United Church of Christ.

“There are big things happening with Little Panthers preschool,” also known as “LPP,” Blevins told the school board.

USD 428 will take possession of the space on May 1, but the church has given the district early access so staff can start getting ready for kids and teachers. Blevins has worked with Information Technology Director Ryan Axmann, Maintenance and Custodians Director Dirk Davis, and Grounds and Transportation Director Cody Schmidt, among others. Crews will be installing WiFi, painting, carpeting and adding security improvements such as cameras.

“We’re also going to take out part of a wall and put in glass so there is a clear line of sight for the secretary or whoever’s in the office, so they can manage who’s coming and going,” Blevins said. For added security, visitors must be seen and “buzzed in” before they can enter the building. Similar secure entrances are already used at other district schools.

USD 428 Curriculum Secretary Samantha Drake has helped Blevins place the first purchase orders for school materials, using Riley Elementary’s preschool teacher Nickie Ochs’s classroom as a guideline.

“The church has also been very generous,” Blevins said. “They have furniture – some of it was left behind by Head Start, some of it is theirs – and they have been very generous to say, ‘if you can use any of it, please do.’” District staff will see what can be put to use from the church and from the district’s surplus furniture list before making any purchases. “We’re trying to be responsible,” she said.

Once the carpets are installed and the walls painted, the plan is to move into the building in July.

Director, teachers hired

“We have also been busy hiring staff,” Blevins said.

Amanda Moran Jones will serve as the preschool’s coordinator.

“She comes to us with lots of experience in childcare and preschools and has a childcare director’s license,” Blevins said.

“We hired Kelsey Deist to be our school secretary. She has customer service as well as some bookkeeping experience, so she’ll be able to handle whatever we throw at her on that end as well as know the importance of that good first impression for community members.”

They’ve also hired three teachers for the preschool.

“Brooklyn Burkhart is currently student teaching at Helping Hands Preschool and was at Park (Elementary) earlier,” Blevins said. “She’ll be graduating in May with the Early Childhood Unified Degree (a Bachelor of Science degree), which is really nice because that’s Early Childhood with Special Education. So we’ll be able to really serve our kids well.

“Kimberlyn Sinclair will be joining us in the second semester next school year. She student teaches this fall here in Great Bend at Riley. She will also have her Early Childhood Unified Degree.”

The district has also hired Desteny Alcala, who now works as a teaching assistant at Park Elementary School. She has previously worked as a summer school coordinator and nurse assistant at USD 428. She is studying at Wichita State University and will have her provisional license with her Early Childhood Unified Degree in the fall. 

“So we have three really outstanding teachers that are very highly qualified, and boy are they energetic,” Blevins said. The last position to fill will be for a teaching assistant.

Meanwhile, Blevins and Jones are looking at the state standards before they prepare a school curriculum and get it into the hands of the teachers so they can prepare for the fall.

Pre-enrollment starts April 21, Blevins said. The facility is expected to serve up to 48 children, ages 3 and 4 years old. USD 428 employees will have the first chance to enroll their children in an all-day program.

“Once we kind of know how many all-day students we’ll have, Amanda (Jones) and I can sit down and determine how to configure the classrooms as well as the schedules,” Blevins said.

Meeting at a glance

Here’s a quick look at Monday’s Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education meeting:

• Eisenhower Elementary Principal JoAnn Blevins presented the most recent information regarding plans to open the USD 428 Little Panthers Preschool this year.

• The board approved the low bid from Gerkin Environmental of $13,400 for asbestos removal at the Cavanaugh Soccer Field locker building. Terracon Consultants Inc. prepared appropriate specifications for flooring abatement at the USD 428 Central Kitchen and the locker building. Superintendent Khris Thexton’s recommendation was to do only the locker building at this time. The project will occur in July.

• The board had its “first reading” of 2021-2022 Student Handbooks, Teacher Handbooks, and Activities and Athletics Handbooks, with reports on changes from last year. Although the handbooks are usually approved after a second reading a month after the first, board members agreed they were ready to approve the handbooks now, and did so.

• The board approved paying Kansas Association of Schol Boards dues for 2021-2022, along with membership in KASB’s Legal Assistance Fund. Dues are $11,646 ($11 more than last year) and membership in the Legal Assistance Fund is $2,300 ($200 more than last year) for a total cost of $13,946.

• Director of Teaching and Learning Tricia Reiser described the USD 428 Family Engagement Plan and asked the board to approve using federal COVID-relief funding to hire seven Family Engagement Coordinators (one for each school). This was approved.

• Superintendent Thexton recommended that everyone in district buildings continue to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. No action was required but the board plans to revisit the subject during its April 29 luncheon meeting.

• The board approved spending $119,400 to purchase 24 rooftop heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units to replace older units. Thexton said these were purchased by state contract and will be installed by district staff.

• USD 428’s Public Information Director Andrea Bauer reported on the upcoming Preschool and Kindergarten Pre-Enrollment Information Fair. This come-and-go-event for parents and guardians of incoming preschool students and kindergartners will be held on Wednesday, April 21, at the Great Bend Events Center. It will be open from 8 a.m. to noon and 3-8 p.m. The event will take the place of a “Kindergarten Round-up” to connect families with information about USD 428 Preschool and Kindergarten programs and other community resources that serve young learners.

• Assistant Superintendent John Popp said the district’s plan to provide a new virtual program for remote learners was not approved by the state.

• The board went into an executive session for preliminary discussion of the acquisition of real property.

• The board went into an executive session to discuss the latest proposal for increasing the base pay rate for teachers. A negotiation meeting with the Great Bend - National Education Association is set for 8 a.m. on Wednesday, April 28, at the District Education Center.