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Open campus contradiction brought to forefront

The West Fargo School Board meeting Oct. 13 should have been fairly cut-and-dried, but a concerned parent brought to light an interesting contradiction in the student handbook.

Peter Hettwer, with his wife Wanda in attendance, voiced concern for inconsistency between the open campus policy at West Fargo High School and how administration handles an ill student's request to go home for the day.

On the issue of open campus, the handbook states: "All students except juniors and seniors in grades 9-12 are required to be in the building all periods. They are not assigned to study hall period 4 and period 7. All students, except juniors and seniors, periods 4 and 7, must have permission from the office to leave the building during their study hall time."

On the other hand, if students requests to leave campus because they feel ill, the school practice is to notify parents "before students are allowed to go home should they need to do so."

Hettwer's concern in the school practice was spurred by a recent incident with his 16-year-old son, Ethan.

Ethan was sick one day and went to the principal's office to notify administration. Upon doing so, his parents were notified and Ethan was allowed to drive himself home. This in and of itself did not concern Hettwer. What did concern him, however, was the fact his son may have been forced to stay at school for hours had neither parent been reached. But, during open campus, juniors and senior can leave campus freely without having to notify parents.

Hettwer originally contacted West Fargo High School principal Gary Clark with his questions about the two school policies. Clark, however, did not respond to Hettwer for more than a week. Frustrated, the irritated parent brought his concern to school superintendent Dr. Dana Diesel Wallace, and then finally asked to be added to the school board meeting agenda.

Clark clarified the practice of notifying parents before letting a sick student go home. It first was put in place nearly 15 years ago after a student was allowed to go home and then committed suicide. The student's mother contacted the school, urging administration to put in place a policy to notify parents when a child is ill before allowing them to go home. The school obliged almost immediately, Clark said.

Hettwer said a solution to both practices would be allowing parents to opt in or out of them.

Noting that this issue should have been handled much sooner and without having to go directly to the school board, school board president Thomas Gentzkow said the board would look into the matter.

"This will draw a lot of discussion among administrators," said Louis Dardis, assistant superintendent, "because everyone has met a student with a hangnail that wanted to go home."

In other matters, the school board voted unanimously to allow changes to classified salaries and benefits. Among the salary changes, all schedules have been increased in each of the two years, based upon the salary committee's recommendation. Benefit changes include: an additional holiday after 20 years of employment, allowing employees to donate one day of sick leave to an employee granted catastrophic leave, and switching the vacation forfeiture date from Jan. 1 of the next fiscal year to June 30 of the next fiscal year.

The board also approved bids received for snow removal at various West Fargo School facilities. Seven contractors came forward with bids and the following five were awarded: Sherman, Inc., Russel Brink, Glacier Snow Management Company, Lindemann Concrete Construction, and Gast Construction Company, Inc.

This year, bids were based on a lump sum instead of hourly. Companies were asked to give bids based on accumulated snow fall across a parking lot ranging from 1-3 inches, 3-6 inches, 6-10 inches and 10-plus inches.