The Roundup -

Sidney School District Continues to Grow and Improve


December 26, 2018 | View PDF

Assistant District Clerk, Michelle Lambert and Superintendent of Schools, Monte Silk appreciate their new office location. (Photo by Jaymi Loobey)

2018 has been a productive year for Sidney Public Schools. Several facility improvements, educational enhancements, updates, and other changes have come along for the benefit of the students, staff, and community. I spoke with Sidney's Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Silk, who was happy to tell me about what has been happening this past year.

First thing, in February of 2018, the Sidney Public School district was able to purchase a large Blue Bird diesel school bus and a smaller shuttle type bus. The Blue Bird can hold up to 84 passengers and is being used for routes. The shuttle bus is smaller and can only hold up to 35 passengers. It is being used for activities. It is for any of the Sidney Public Schools, smaller clubs and teams traveling to meets and competitions. "Before February," Silk said, "the district used one of the less fuel-efficient coaches or route buses and the activity bus was more economical and comfortable, especially, over long distances."

In May of 2018, the school board made the decision to build a new track at Sidney High School. This year there were no track meets held at the high school because the track had deteriorated with the harsh weather and temperature extremes common to eastern Montana. When the track is constructed, two-thirds of the cost of the track will be covered by $625,000 in generous donations while the rest will be covered with district funds. The track will be built in the summer of 2019. Mr. Silk said with the new track, meets can resume being held at Sidney High School. This means that class A, B, and C divisional meets can be held in Sidney as well. Mr. Silk said, "The boost in visitors during the meets will be good for the local economy."

June was especially productive. First, the board decided to build a concession stand and bathrooms on the north side of what will be Sidney High School's new track. The groundbreaking wasn't until July. The concession stand and bathroom structure is being paid for largely by donations. The Eagle Foundation pitched in $80,000 while Mid-Rivers Communications donated $100,000. With the new concession building, home fans will not have to walk all the way to the school to use the bathroom and get food.

In June, the Sidney Education Association and Sidney School board reached an agreement on a three-year contract that increased teacher's salaries by an average of 4 percent. Mr. Silk said, "With the increase, Sidney Public Schools can compete better in the hiring of excellent teachers."

Quite a bit of work was done specifically on Central Elementary School this summer. A new play structure was built on the playground, complete with numerous slides and a rubber mulch base. I asked Mr. Silk why the district chose to use the recycled rubber product instead of the traditional sand or wood chips. He pointed out that sand can pack down in our climate and that they had problems with the wood chips blowing away when they had them before. The Eagle Foundation took care of half of the $80,000 cost while the district paid the remainder.

Central School was also able to have their parking lot asphalted. It had fallen into disrepair and because of construction across the street at the Methodist church and the normal goings on at the school, the teachers had nowhere else to park. The district paid for it and now Central School's teachers and staff have a safe, flat place to park their vehicles while they work.

When October rolled around the school board decided to build a new gym at Central Elementary. Currently, lunch is held in the only gym they have so there can be no gym or indoor physical education classes during lunchtime. The district is funding this project with bids going out in January.

In November, in an effort to free up classrooms, Sidney School District administration offices were moved to the old Stockman Bank building. Stockman Bank still owns their previous Sidney Branch location and is renting it to the school district for the district's purposes. Mr. Silk said, "Enrollment has increased at Central school and they needed the room for small and large group activities.

The Sidney School District was able to purchase an Alpha Anatomage table for the high school's Biology, Anatomy, Physiology, and Animal Science classes. This table is a revolutionary anatomy teaching tool and the type of equipment used at universities and hospitals to teach and train practicing doctors and surgeons. Local physicians will have use of the table for training and practice. The first training on the new table was December 18. Local donors made the purchase of the $60,000 table possible. The Foundation for Community Care donated $36,000 for the purchase of the table. Continental Oil added an additional $5,000 and the district covered the rest.

Monte Silk, the superintendent of schools and Eagle Foundation member, Nicole Simonsen, Eagle Foundation President, Nick Kallem and Katie Dasinger, Eagle Foundation Directors along with Eagle Foundation Vice president Jamie Larson stand by as Michael Candelaria and Staci Knuths from Mid-Rivers break ground for the High School Track Facility. (Photo by Jaymi Loobey)

According to Mr. Silk, the most beneficial long-term enhancement to the district was the districtwide energy savings project. During the summer and fall of 2018, the lighting was updated to LED lighting, the temperature controls were updated as needed and the thirty-five-year-old furnaces at Sidney High School and Central Elementary were replaced. Mr. Silk had promoted energy savings projects before as Superintendent in Bullhead City, Arizona and Corvallis, Montana so he knew the benefits the changes would bring. He said, "Sidney Public School District is estimated to save $30,000 a year as a result of improvements in energy efficiency." Already, Montana Dakota Utilities has given them a $25,000 rebate just for installing energy efficient systems.

For now, that is the top ten happenings for the Sidney Public School District but they are not done yet. Some of the projects decided on this year must wait until summer break to be completed. Mr. Silk also said, "In 2019, the board is looking to improve the condition of the football field, to adopt new reading curricula, to consider the granting of an academic letter for top Sidney High School students, and to complete a strategic plan for district improvements over the next five years.


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