Great Bend USD 428 will join a consortium’s effort to negotiate a lower price for the natural gas bill that followed a winter storm between Feb. 12 and 21.
The district was billed $75,789.74 for natural gas, although normally the maximum cost for the amount used would be $26,255.57, Superintendent Khris Thexton said. The Kansas Association of School Boards has set up a negotiation process with the natural gas supplier, Symmetry Energy Solutions LLC.
It will cost the district $900 to join the negotiating group, Thexton said. There’s no guarantee that the district will save the nearly $50,000 difference, but he recommended joining. “If you’re not in, you don’t have that opportunity.”
The board approved the expenditure.
USD 428 is part of the Kansas Joint Utilities Management Program (KJUMP), KASB’s natural gas purchasing consortium that saves thousands of dollars for its 175 members. The KJUMP purchasing pool is managed by Symmetry, one of the largest independent suppliers of natural gas.
Symmetry has posted an explanation of its natural gas prices during the February cycle on a website (https://february21winterstormuri.symmetryenergy.com/). In states, in part:
“As a result of Winter storm Uri between February 12th and February 21st, 2021, and the extended period of extremely low temperatures, physical gas and power infrastructure was severely impaired. Specifically, well-head freeze-offs occurred, and gas processing plants and pipelines failed. This resulted in reduced natural gas supply and limited the ability to distribute and deliver natural gas on the system. At the same time, demand for natural gas was much higher than normal due to increased heating demand during the extremely cold weather.
“This considerable increase in demand, coupled with a severe reduction in supply, resulted in extremely high natural gas prices in almost every market Symmetry serves. Importantly, this was a market-wide event and virtually all industry participants were impacted – not just Symmetry.
“As a retail natural gas marketer, Symmetry’s role is between suppliers of gas on one hand, and our end-user customers on the other. Symmetry does not produce gas and it does not set market prices.”
After years of trying to correct problems with the boiler at the Panther Activity Center (PAC), Great Bend USD 428 has ordered a new boiler. The board of education met Thursday and approved the low bid of $164,640 for a boiler from Central, a Wichita-based firm. It was well below the high bid of $299,338, which prompted school board member Susan Young to ask, “why the drastic difference there?”
“That’s a great question, Superintendent Thexton said. “We asked the same thing. We wanted to make sure that that was an apples-to-apples comparison between the three (bidders).” Thexton said Central met all of the bid specifications and comes highly recommended.
There was an alternative addition to the bid, for a higher efficiency motor, that the engineer did not recommend, Thexton said, “because the payback will not justify the cost.” Central’s bid on the alternate motor was $9,525.
The life expectancy is 20 to 30 years, although Thexton said the typical warrant is 10 years. Employee training on maintenance, if needed, is provided with the installation.
The PAC was built in 2007 and the boiler was added then.
New principals hired
The school board approved four teacher resignations, three licensed teacher appointments and two licensed administrator appointments. Adam Niedens was named principal at Jefferson Elementary School and Adam Cline was named principal at Park Elementary School.
Resignations came from Brittany Leathers, social studies teacher at Great Bend Middle School; Taylor Holstrom, kindergarten teacher at Eisenhower Elementary; Abigail Rodriguez-Gonzalez, fourth-grade teacher at Eisenhower; and Susan Miller, math teacher at GBMS.
The new appointments are Jennifer Bosley, sixth-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary; Scot Vink, social studies teacher at GBMS; and Tyleia Prendergast, science teacher at GBMS.
Contributions and grant applications
In other business, the board approved a request from Holly Tittle, GBMS librarian, to apply for a grant from Credit Union of America to purchase books and/or materials to supplement curriculum with special activities.
The board also approved the following contributions:
• The Madrigals received a $100 performance contribution from Wheatland Electric.
• Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) received $150 from Delta Tau Chapter, Epsilon Sigma Alpha International.
• The Athletics Department received $5,500 from the GBHS Booster Club for the sound system at the Cavanaugh Soccer Complex.
• Lincoln Elementary received $377.99 from Kroger.
• GBMS received $17.40 from Casey’s Convenience Store Co.
• Midwest Energy Community Fund contributed $700 to the Bicycle Attendance Program, bringing its total contribution to this fund to $1,000.
The school board, administrators and Great Bend High School Tim Friess also met in executive session for 15 minutes on Thursday. The purpose of the session was to discuss a matter pertaining to a student.
End of mask mandate
As previously reported, the board also voted that students and staff are no longer required to wear masks in USD 428 buildings, as of April 30.
GHBS adapts during COVID-19 pandemic
Great Bend High School was featured at Thursday’s USD 428 Board of Education meeting. Rather than visit the school in person, the board met at the District Education Center and GBHS Principal Tim Friess shared an online video featuring members of the building leadership team.
The Great Bend High School video, “Survive, Adapt, Overcome: GBHS in the time of COVID19,” can be found on the GBHS Media YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNfBp9TX6Sc.