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USD 428 makes offer on former Becker Tire site
Author visits K-12 students virtually
Children’s author Mac Barnett makes a virtual presentation to K-12 students Tuesday. The presentations were also viewed by Great Bend Public Library/Central Kansas Library System staff, shown here. - photo by Susan Thacker
Great Bend USD 428 will make an offer to purchase this property at 904 Washington St. and property at 2516 9th St. – formerly Becker Tire and later Best-One Tire. If the offer is accepted, maintenance, transportation, custodial, and food service departments would be consolidated to the site, Superintendent Khris Thexton said. - photo by Susan Thacker

Monday evening, the Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education approved making an offer on property that could eventually be used for a new support services complex.

The amount of the offer on 904 Washington and 2516 9th St. – formerly Becker Tire and later Best-One Tire – was not disclosed. The board met in executive session for 15 minutes “to discuss potential properties for support services.” Preliminary discussion of the acquisition of real property may be conducted privately as an exception under the Kansas Open Meetings Act. After the discussion with administrators, the board resumed its open meeting and voted to make the offer outlined in a contract, and to accept it if the seller approves.

After the meeting, Superintendent Khris Thexton provided a statement concerning plans for the land if it is purchased.

“We believe this is a great opportunity and location to bring our USD 428 support services together. If the offer is accepted, maintenance, transportation, custodial, and food service departments would be consolidated to the site.”

Currently, Food Service is located at 2201 Broadway and the Maintenance, Transportation & Grounds building is at 2019 12th St.

Mac Barnett Virtual Visit

In other business Monday, Library Media Specialists Holly Tittel from Great Bend Middle School and Angela Petersen from Park Elementary School told the board about a May 11 virtual visit from book author Mac Barnett.

All USD 428 K-12 students would have the opportunity to participate, as there were sessions for different age groups. Barnett has written everything from picture books to chapter books.

His award-winning children’s books include the Mac B Kid Spy series, the Jack Books series, and “A Polar Bear in the Snow.” “Extra Yarn,” a picture book illustrated by Jon Klassen, won the 2012 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award and 2013 E.B. White Read Aloud Award. His awards also include two Caldecott Honors, three New York Times illustration awards, and two additional E.B. White Read Aloud Awards.

“This took the place of our Great Bend Reading Initiative this year,” Thexton said.

A visit from an author of Barnett’s stature would normally be beyond USD 428’s budget, Petersen said. Because of the pandemic, speakers have become available for more affordable virtual programs.

“Barnett was our best fit for K-12,” she said. “He knows how to engage kids of all ages.”

His programs for middle school and high school students were prerecorded, but the younger children would see an interactive program. They sent him a few questions in advance. One asked, “Are you a millionaire? You don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to.” Another wanted to know, “Is it really quiet when you write? Is it lonely?”

Even though Barnett couldn’t come from his home in California to Kansas to meet with students in person, Tittel said he sent some autographed nameplates for students who have his books. In return, the Great Bend High School librarian will send him a thank-you package with some Kansas products. 

Meeting at a glance

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

• School nurses and certified nursing assistants at Great Bend USD 428 received ROSE Awards (Recognizing Outstanding Support of Education).

• The board recognized three GBHS speech students who have qualified to compete in the National Speech and Debate Association national (virtual) tournament in June. Isaiah Smith, Xanna Smith and Malachi Wasson appeared with their coach, Kim Heath. The national tournament will showcase high school students from every corner of the United States.

• Library Media Specialists Holly Tittel, GBMS, and Angela Petersen, Park Elementary, explained how award-winning children’s author Mac Barnett planned to virtually visit K-12 students on Tuesday.

• The board approved its 2021-2022 meeting schedule. Meetings are typically on the second Monday of each month at 5 p.m., except for the March 7, 2022 meeting prior to spring break, at the District Education Center. The board will also hold seven noon luncheon meetings, from Sept. 30 through April 27, 2022, with no December meeting. These will be held later in the month on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, and will be held at a different learning center each month.

• The District Education Center will again alter its summer hours by closing on Friday afternoons begin May 28 and continuing through July 30. Employees will have the opportunity to work their number of contracted hours. This was approved by the board.

• The paper purchase for 2021-2022 was approved. Price quotes for 540 cartons of 8.5 x 11 copy paper and 40 cartons of 11 x 17 paper were requested from paper vendors. The 2020-2021 bid projected a need for 60 more cases and was for $17,677. Superintendent Khris Thexton said less paper was needed because of carryover from 2020-2021.

The low bid was submitted by Veritiv Operating Co., headquartered in Atlanta, Ga., for $17,252, but the board chose local company Office Products Inc., which submitted a quote for $17,544 (less than 2% more). 

Additionally, quotes for pastel and bright copy paper and card stock were requested. OPI submitted the low quote of $3,967, which was also approved. 

• The board approved a mobile radio purchase at the government rate quote for $175,363, from Motorola Solutions in Great Bend. The quote is for an 800 MHz frequency system to replace the current obsolete narrowband radios that do not meet the current radio-frequency requirements of the FCC. It includes 94 radios at $958.20 each, plus additional equipment for an entire radio system. Administrators estimated that the current system is at least 15 years old. 

• Assistant Superintendent John Popp reported on the Curalink Employee Assistance Program, which has call-in support for immediate mental health services. The District Insurance Committee reviewed the products and recommends adding this program to support the complete well-being of district staff and families.

• Superintendent Thexton reported that the district uses Bark, a system that monitors students’ online activity, text messages and emails and sends alerts when students might be in danger online. Now parents can get a free subscription to a family service called Bark Jr.

• Thexton also reported on the Emergency Broadband Program that provides a discount of up to $50 monthly toward internet service for eligible households.

• He reported the free meals for students have been extended through 2021-2022. Summer meals will again be offered through June and July.

• Food Service Director Kristy Alvord received approval to again accept a grant from the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program that provides free fresh fruits and vegetables to elementary students during the school day. The board also approved contributions from Box Tops to Lincoln Elementary ($30.70), Riley Elementary ($7.30) and GBMS ($2.40); from Casey’s to Riley ($16.60) and from Kroger to Riley ($257.47).

• Three licensed teacher appointments were approved: Audria Hanzlick, teacher of English at GBHS; Bobby Chavez, first-grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary; and Kiley Kaiser, fourth-grade teacher at Eisenhower.

• An executive session was held for 15 minutes to discuss the potential acquisition of properties for support services.

Following the executive session, the board amended the meeting agenda and approved a motion authorizing the administration “to make an offer to purchase property located at 904 Washington St. and 2516 Main St., formerly known as Becker Tire and Best-One Tire, as outlined in a contract, and if accepted by the seller to purchase.”

• An executive session was held for 20 minutes to discuss employer-employee negotiations.