Kamiah High School sign photo

KAMIAH — At the Jan. 20 Kamiah Joint School District 304 board meeting, Tara Wilkins, a Kamiah area 4-H leader, addressed the board during the public comment period. She requested the board close schools on Thursday, Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 this year because of conflicts with the Lewis County Fair. She explained that Thursday of fair week is the day the kids, “move their animals to Nezperce and participate in interviews about their projects,” noting that many of them are in Nezperce all day.

Wilkins asked that athletic directors (ADs) for KMS and KHS not schedule games to conflict with the fair dates (Sept. 30-Oct.2). She also hopes they will not schedule away games with significant travel distance the entire week of fair.

“Please don’t make them choose between sports and 4-H,” said Wilkins, noting that kids work all year on their projects and have a chance to earn several thousand dollars on the sale of their animals.

In her presentation, Wilkins said that her club, the Big Butte Buckaroos, is the largest club in Lewis County with 60 kids. A second club in the Kamiah area has close to 20 kids, with most of the 4-H participants in both groups attending Kamiah schools. Last fall, Kamiah was the only school district in Lewis County that remained open during the fair, according to Wilkins.

She provided an information packet to board trustees and district staff including the fair dates. It included research findings about the many benefits of 4-H to positive youth development. Wilkins concluded that she would like to see 4-H valued equally with sports and other extracurricular activities due to the popularity of 4-H in Kamiah and its positive benefits to youth.

Board chairman, Rikki Simler, thanked Wilkins for her time and said they will consider her request when they plan next year’s school calendar. Superintendent Ben Merrill said he plans to establish a calendar committee to provide input to the board for next year’s calendar. He envisions representation from each school. One request he has heard from several teachers is more consistency in school quarters which currently vary in length. As noted in Wilkins presentation, there are many factors to consider in establishing the calendar.

Merrill shared the results of a survey of parents and staff members about the four-day school week, which began in the 2018-19 school year as a cost-saving measure. Both parents and staff overwhelmingly supported the four-day school week with 77 percent of parents and 88 percent of school staff in favor. He noted 74 parents, representing 158 students (roughly 40 percent of the total student population) responded to the survey and 43 school staff.

The board approved KMS principal Peggy Flerchinger’s request to hire an on-site KMS coordinator for 7th and 8th graders who are repeating Idaho Digital Learning Academy (IDLA) classes from last fall. She envisions this as a halftime support position for the rest of the school year. Although students have an IDLA instructor online, Flerchinger feels they would benefit from a person in the room to keep them on task. If the students don’t complete these required classes, they will not advance to the next grade level.

“I am developing a data dashboard for board members,” said Merrill. This would include student achievement data, average daily attendance, student citations on the bus and other information each month. He hopes that having this information more frequently will “help board members make better decisions”. For example, if trustees see that 5th grade math students are falling behind, they could decide to allocate more resources.