Bills in legislature concern science teacher

Richmond Community Schools has settled on a 2023-2024 calendar, but will continue discussing the start and end times for instruction.

The board approved vacations and holidays at its March 22 meeting.

Ninth graders will start Aug. 4, which is Indiana State Fair Band Day, but members will be excused. All students start Aug. 7. Students will not attend Sept. 4, Oct. 12 (parent-teacher conferences), Oct. 23-27, Nov. 22-24, Dec. 21-Jan. 5 and March 25-29. The last day of instruction is May 23; graduation is June 2.

Schools are to be closed on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents Day, but those dates are possible makeup days if needed.

RHS flooring

Although December’s flooding of Richmond High School’s first and second floors challenged students and staff, an insurance settlement of about $407,000 for flooring offers unexpected opportunities for building improvements.

Members spent nearly an hour discussing expenses and longevity of three flooring options: terrazzo tile on the damaged areas first floor and all of the second floor (an additional $526,400), terrazzo on the first floor and homogenous vinyl (HVT) resembling terrazzo on the second (an additional $411,400), or HVT in both damaged areas at no extra cost to RCS.

Terrazzo is estimated to last 40-50 years, but with careful waxing by RHS staff, some RCS representatives believe it could last 80 years. HVT is estimated to last 25 years, but that could be doubled as well.

Some favored terrazzo, especially for the high-traffic, high-visibility first floor that also keeps with RHS’ historic status. However, others noted other pressing district needs, ranging from renovations for the new STEAM program at Hibberd to Dennis Intermediate’s heating/cooling and RHS’ third-floor lockers, tennis courts and pool repairs. They encouraged frugality.

RCS already had budgeted to begin replacing RHS flooring in a couple of years.

The board determined RCS Superintendent Curtis Wright and his team should decide because members usually set renovation budgets without delving into decorating specifics.

Teacher shares concerns

Teacher Tiauna “T” Washington shared concerns about House Bills 1608 and 1001 and Senate Bills 12 and 46, and urged RCS to contact legislators.

Knowing her own name is often mispronounced, Washington reads aloud her roster on the first day of school and asks students what they prefer to be called. If HB 1608 passes, and a preferred name differs from their assigned gender, teachers must deny that request, call the parents and “basically out them.”

“I’m not in the business of doing that,” Washington said. “Our students trust us with so many things. School is supposed to be a safe haven.”

Noting 18 bills targeting LGBTQ students, she says educators need to fight for students’ dignity, rights and wellness. Washington predicts a greater increase in depression and suicide because she already knows of many students receiving mental health treatment at Reid Health Care Pavilion in Connersville, some involving LGBTQ issues.

The science teacher also worries about being charged with a felony if a student requests a book on human body systems and a parent objects to it and turns her in.

“Since when are we in the business of putting libraries and teachers in jail simply for educating our students?” she asked.

Washington also opposes budget increases for private and charter schools and teachers losing a seat at the table for bargaining rights.

In other business

The board heard about the installation of a book vending machine at Fairview Elementary. Students receive tokens for positive behavior and choose books to keep.

The board approved:

  • A memorandum of understanding with Indiana University for the College Now program serving juniors and seniors. It especially encourages students from underserved, first-generation college or historically underrepresented populations to attend college. Students can take one or two courses per semester at no cost to them through a partnership with IU East, First Bank Richmond and Wayne County Foundation.
  • Every Child Can Read’s proposal for The Reading Academy summer program helping second and third graders reach grade-level proficiency.
  • Three overnight trips for RHS groups, including vocational students competing at Skills USA in Indianapolis.

After the public meeting, the board conducted an executive session citing the need to assess, design and implement school safety and security measures, plans and systems.

The board’s next meeting is 5:30 p.m. April 12 at 300 Hub Etchison Parkway.

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A version of this article appeared in the March 29 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.