Saturday, March 28, 2020

Exeter-Milligan Update: Kids Heart Challenge

Kindergartener, Layne Zelenka was the top fundraiser for the event.  He raised $460! 
1st grader, Archer Engert participating

Kids Heart Challenge at E-M
By Darcy White, K-12 PE/Health Instructor

Exeter-Milligan Schools hosted the Kids Heart Challenge event on Feb. 27. This is a wonderful event we try to participate in each year.  It was a very successful and fun event for the students to be a part of.  Students in grades K-2 raised over $1,700 for the American Heart Association.  Thanks to all the parents, grandparents, and community members who supported the students and pledged to the AHA this year. 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Digital Learning at Exeter-Milligan

Ben Bartu takes in a Biology class at home via Zoom during the school closure.

Educating 130 students from four different counties on a regular school day is a challenge but add in the corona virus quarantine and throw down might be the correct description.

It looks like Exeter-Milligan school district can check that box on their to do list.

Digital technology will be the key to continuing education which was obvious in a recent conversation with Superintendent Paul Sheffield, Principal Laura Kroll and elementary teachers Laura Steuben and Shelli Mueller via Zoom.

In order to use Zoom or another app the students use regularly called Canvas, each student has to have two things, an internet platform and a device to use it on.  On Monday, March 16 all Exeter-Milligan students were sent home with their device, elementary students took home their IPad’s and 7-12 grade took home their Macbooks.

Sheffield confirmed that any household that did not have internet before this quarantine do have internet now. 

“Our administration and school board have been forward thinking for so long,” added Mueller, “I can’t imagine doing this without them having their IPad’s at home.  All the kids that don’t have access to all of this I can’t imagine.”

Elementary students were sent home with learning packets and will meet with their students via Zoom.  Sheffield noted that for this first two weeks the teachers would focus on reading and math. 

Mueller and Steuben both discussed different ways of creatively teaching some of their subjects. 

Mueller, “found little videos to show how to review match concepts.  We learned how to find the mean on Monday so I found a video on how to find mean.  Thank goodness there are a lot of resources right now.”

Steuben talked about Epic, an online lending library, which is free for teachers and students.  Teachers can see which books their students check out and read and she did have to warn a parent after a student checked out a book on how to prank your parents.

Mueller noted that elementary writing is going to be hard. “They can submit documents and we can fix them and send them back to them, but there’s not an easy way.”

Steuben thought that third grade math without using manipulatives would be a challenge.

The plan put forth for seventh through twelfth graders will include classroom meeting on zoom for each period once or twice a week.  The district created a zoom schedule and will also deliver content electronically through their Learning Management System, Canvas, which allows them to upload study guides, homework and quizzes. They are trying to make sure that only one student per household is on zoom at a time so as not to tax the household internet service.

Teachers will log each zoom time on a spreadsheet to include the date, time and the participants for each zoom.  Some classes are more project based, like Industrial Arts and Art and there will be less direct contact.  Special Ed, Occupational Therapist and physical therapists will also make and document zoom visits. 

In all of this uncertainty the district is very concerned with the mental health of the students and the teachers.  “We are all learning together.  I personally advise everyone to be patient and mindful. 

Everyone’s situation is different.  Do what you can do and control what you can control,” Kroll commented.

Mueller advised parents and students to find a routine and set up a schedule.  “I have read it takes a couple of weeks to get into a routine.”

“I think our students are up for the challenge right now, it may not be the same after 6 or 8 weeks if it goes that far.”

“This is old hat for the kids,” added Sheffield.

Kroll hopes to keep in contact with both students and faculty.  “We will still have staff meetings as needed.  I still want to check in with my staff and maintain that connection with them.”

Some of the teachers are working remotely but others are coming to school and the administration is letting them do what is comfortable for them.

Kroll is also hoping to have some zoom sessions with the elementary students and will communicate with parents.  On her list so far is reading to the students and also having a zoom knock knock joke session.

Another concern mentioned was feeding the students who regularly eat at school.  “We have the backpack program weekly and at this time the plan is to deliver that to those who are involved in it,” explained Kroll.

Since this zoom interview the district has extended the closure to May 1 and will begin providing takeout breakfast and lunch at the regular cost.  Other districts, like Fillmore Central, are providing just a lunch free of charge.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Exeter-Milligan Update: Kindergarten News

Kindergarten News at Exeter-Milligan
By Amanda Pettygrove, Kindergarten Instructor

Exeter-Milligan's Kindergarten class has had the opportunity to participate in an evidence-based emotional and behavioral skills intervention through the University of Nebraska called Insights. This program targets students' problem-solving skills. Students in Kindergarten received 10 weeks of the program where they learned more about their own temperaments, met puppet friends to act out dilemmas, and learned a new step by step approach to solving their own everyday dilemmas. The students in the class had a graduation ceremony to round out the end of the 10 week program on March 17th. They will get the chance to continue this program next year in First Grade.

Pictured Back Row Left to Right: Easton Schlegelmilch, Maizy Ogren, Reed Wince, Layne Zelenka
Back Row Left to Right: Avery Hankins, Kenan Petersen, Knox Becker, Wesley Hopkins

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Exeter-Milligan Update: Spanish Classroom

Notes from the Spanish Classroom
By Lisa Ricenbaw, Exeter-Milligan Spanish Instructor

Did you know that learning a second language helps you to understand your own language better? Students need practice to use correct grammar in order to communicate successfully in any language. Spanish students at Exeter Milligan Public School write sentences on marker boards to practice sentence structure. This practice also helps students to find meaning in what they are saying and helps them to focus on and remember the vocabulary. Writing, speaking and listening are all good skills to practice and are necessary to become successful. 


Front: Cammie Harrison and Natalie Staskal
Back row: Jackson Beethe and Clint Oldehoeft

Friday, March 20, 2020

Village of Exeter Do Not Flush!!!

Exeter-Milligan School Board Discusses Consolidation with Friend

Nearly 50 patrons attended the Exeter-Milligan school board meeting on Tuesday in Exeter.
Chairman Adam Erdkamp opened the meeting welcoming the visitors and noted that there would be time for the visitors to speak at the end of the meeting.  

The board quickly approved the consensus agenda and reviewed the policy on communicable diseases.  Superintendent Paul Sheffield confirmed the current policy, “If the school would close; it’s coming down from the health department.. .We talked to teachers about it today and if we have to close for 14 days we will make a plan to deliver content digitally.”

The next item on the agenda was the curriculum report which was a review of the recent external visit.  Board member Eric Milton commented, “It sounds like they were fairly impressed with us .” 
Board member Tim Pribyl concurred with Milton’s comment noting “they were especially impressed with our technology of one to one laptops and ipads.”

The board moved on to old business after noting they would be moving the consolidation topic to the end of the meeting.  The board approved the principal contract and looked at a report from thebuilding and grounds committee.

The CIPA filter was a discussion point for the board.  Sheffield informed the board that the essential internet filter is about eight years old.  “We are going to have to replace it and will try to use E-rate funds to help defray part of the cost.   You will see the universal service fund on your phone bill.  We will apply for use of those funds.  It usually costs $6,000 so we will hopefully get it for half price.”
The board approved this project.

The board approved five days of unpaid leave for Mary Kay Pribyl.

Erdkamp gave a timeline of the current topic of cooping all sports and/or consolidation with Friend Public School.  He explained that the board looked at doing a curriculum study, “We wanted to know how we were doing and what some opportunities were for our kids.  We invited Friend to participate with a separate report for us and Friend.”

The report was completed at the end of December and presented to the board.  The curriculum committee which included Erdkamp, Milton and Kendra Oldehoeft along with Exeter-Milligan administrators met with professors from Wayne State who presented the report in January.

The board discussed the committee meeting in their February 12 board meeting and also at a work session they held.  The committee met with the corresponding Friend curriculum committee.

Erdkamp explained, “These meetings (with the exception of the committee meetings) have been advertised.  We have not been trying to go behind closed doors.  We want to be open about this conversation.  We are glad everyone is here because we want to know your opinions.”

He added that in the committee they “talked about the football and  ag coop and everyone seemed to be positive about how that is going.”

The Exeter-Milligan committee members approached the Friend committee about “cooping more activities. First thing we asked them is if they were interested in cooping more sports. They were more interested in talking about more than that.”

Milton commented on the curriculum report, “It’s about providing the kids a better education which is what this is all about. The professors said more kids is better as they teach each other and challenge each other in the classroom and sports.”

Erdkamp gave patrons a glimpse at what a possible layout might look like: elementary in Exeter with junior high and high school in Friend and preschool in both locations.  For sports he speculated that football would be played in Milligan with volleyball in Exeter and basketball in Friend.

Sheffield added that he had gone to the Exeter-Milligan coaches asking them what they needed, if they would be interested in cooping sports and received a very positive response.

Audience member and parent Chris Grummons asked “what would be the advantage of consolidation? What programs would it open up?”

Sheffield offered to answer the question noting, “Friend has an active industrial arts program with electric cars, Exeter-Milligan has a plasma cutter.  We share an ag teacher now but we can offer them a business teacher.  Athletically there would be more numbers to be more challenged from within.  An activity we could add would be wrestling.”

Exeter-Milligan principal Laura Kroll added, “The ability for the kids for problem solving when you have just one, two or three in a class versus having more will help challenge the kids on the court or the classroom.”

Oldehoeft also noted that “this will provide for kids on all on the spectrum.  More kids in each grade means more personalized attention to the level that child is at.”

Erdkamp emphasized that they would continue to have two classes of each elementary if the consolidation happens.

He also expounded on the negatives, “We would have a loss of identity of Exeter-Milligan, no student presence in Milligan, more competition for playing time or band activities which can be an advantage for kids or a disadvantage.  The more competition the better, they are going to have competition in life.”

Parent Kyle Svec made several points, first about developing a culture which takes time and second, “the economic factor. Going from four games to two in Milligan, there was a cost but you can’t put a dollar figure on it.  Also having kids visible at recess adds vibrancy to a community.”

Svec also asked if the board had talked to other districts or done a study with other districts.

Erdkamp responded that the only “other possibility would be with Fillmore Central and I don’t see it happening.”

He talked about the numbers noting that in 2002-2003 when Exeter and Milligan consolidated there were 321 kids and now the district has an enrollment of 149.

The audience also asked about the effect of consolidation on the staff.

Erdkamp responded, “We would not be in favor of firing staff.  Over time attrition would take care of the numbers. If a teacher retired they would not be replaced.”

The audience asked about class placement and conference. Sheffield responded, “We would be C-2 right away or could be D-1.  In CRC most schools would accept us but it would have to go to a vote.  Pioneer Conference would accept us.”

Exeter Village Board Chairman Alan Michl commented, “I just want to commend the board for being proactive.  It’s going to come down to the point that they are going to legislate what we do.”

There was also a discussion on the difference between a unified district and consolidation.  Sheffield explained, “There is a seven year agreement with unification.  It’s like a trial marriage.  If you unify you still have EM and Friend.  Unified keeps each district intact.”

Milton commented, “I don’t think dissolving a district is a good idea at any time.”

The board was asked about timetables and no specifics were offered.  

Exeter-Milligan assistant girls basketball coach Sara Pella commented, “From a coaching standpoint and being a JV coach we have only been able to take five or six to JV tournaments and one or two of those girls are starting on varsity. It’s difficult.  We haven’t gotten the experience because we haven’t had a JV program.  We need to build the program from an elementary program and we didn’t have one last year. Build the program all the way through and we would be able to do that with more girls.”

The discussion moved to a financial perspective talking about levies.  The board was asked about the higher levy in Friend and the current bond Friend has for their school addition.

Sheffield reassured patrons, “When you consolidate you do not take on debt.”

Erdkamp noted that the next step is to have a committee meeting with the Friend committee members.

Sheffield gave a brief update on several bills in the legislature which would affect school finances and the board set the next meeting for April 8 in Milligan.