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The Lodi School Board listened to a breakdown of some of the data from their Youth Risk Behavior Survey that was taken by students this past spring at their regular meeting on Monday, Jan. 13.

The survey is given to middle school and high school students every two years but did not include sixth grade in the 2019 results. The survey helps identify a wide variety of risky behaviors and mental health concerns in the students.

Steven Ricks, School Board treasurer who presented the data, said for the first time in the 15 years he’s been doing the survey, the numbers are moving in the wrong direction.

“That’s partially because of societal influences,” Ricks said. “If our teachers and parents are stressed, how do you think students are going to be?”

The survey showed 29% of all high school students and 18% of middle school students had alcohol in the last 30 days. Vaping has more than doubled in the last two year, jumping from 17.3% to 38%. Marijuana non use has also fell from 91% in 2017 to 85% in 2019.

Lodi also saw a rise in prescription drug use over the last two year from 4% to 8%. However, Ricks said number is substantially lower than what it has been before the Lodi Community Action Team (LCAT) was formed, a group designed to combat youth substance abuse.

“LCAT was started because of prescription drug use,” he said. “When we started, it was closer to 20% across the board.”

Along with these results, the school district saw a drop in how harmful students perceive different substances to be. When asked if a specific substance posed a moderate or greater risk of harm, 84% said yes to prescription drugs, 67% to alcohol, 80% for tobacco and 43% for marijuana.

Ricks said it was “shocking” to see students believe smoking marijuana is only half as harmful as taking a prescription pill when they haven’t been given a prescription. He said one of the district’s goals for the next couple years will be to work on student’s perception of harm.

“I think we can all agree young people, when their brains are developing, they should not be using marijauna and there’s true detriment to younger people using it,” Ricks said. “It’s a proven science. It’s not mythology, it’s a fact.”

When looking at the mental health of students in the survey, 46% of high school students reported having high anxiety in the past 12 months, with 60% of those being female and 33% being male. These numbers are higher in the middle school with 48% of students reporting this.

Middle school students having suicidal thoughts jumped from 12% to 26% over the last two years. The high school saw an increase from 11% to 16%.

Ricks said the next step to addressing these issues will be to present this data to the school staff as well as looking at opportunities to set up town hall meetings. Focus groups have already been created in the schools to examine the entirety of the data more thoroughly.

He said the school district does a wonderful job at providing a range of opportunities for students but Lodi may not be able to get that “spark” in students if the district “floods them into everything.”

“If I could impart one word of wisdom … Please make the effort to find the activities that your kids thrive in and get rid of everything else. Let them exceed at something naturally, not exceed at something because they tried 500 things ... It taxes the whole system and we come up with a society that escapes by drinking, by smoking, by vaping, gambling, sexual activity, all those things. It’s not going to cure the world, but it’s a start we can do as adults.”

Referendum budget

The School Board worked to allocate the remaining funds from the referendum. The board currently has $389.433.88 remaining in Fund 39.

The Board of Education meeting room is scheduled to be remodeled, with a bid cost of $32,935 and technology upgrade cost of $35,000. The board also has an estimate of $125,000 to upgrade the high school Performing Arts Center, which includes improvements to lighting, rigging and curtain replacement.

There is currently around $173,816 of unallocated funds. District Administrator Chuck Pursell recommended having a $15,000 contingency to not be allocated until all priority project costs have been covered, along with retaining $6,000 for the middle school STEAM lab.

With around $152,816 left to be allocated, the School Board identified the following projects (in order of priority) to allocate the money toward:

  • Primary School STEAM — $10,146
  • Elementary/OSC update (PA) — $2,600
  • High school sidewalk from Sauk Street to PAC — $26,548 — plus $5,780 to repair tennis court sidewalk at the same time
  • Middle school, elementary/OSC and district office parking lot lighting — $19,425
  • High school classrooms (desks to tables) — $47,915
  • High school art room tables and chairs — $21,000

Other items following these projects that were identified, but may not receive referendum funding, included elementary office cabinets ($12,000) and middle school/high school scoreboard replacement ($23,180). The deadline to use the remaining referendum funds is May 20.

Madison STEM Academy

The School Board looked at a draft for a new policy that would allow students to enroll in the Madison College STEM Academy, a dual program where high school students interested in the STEM field take a full-time schedule of college classes at Madison College.

This policy allows two students to be accepted into the program each year. According to the policy, families will be expected to contribute one-third of the total tuition per year, while the School District of Lodi will contribute two-thirds of the total tuition per year. The School District of Lodi will pay 100% of the tuition for accepted students that are classified with free or reduced lunch.

Ricks said he did not support this because it did not meet the original requirement the School Board had for the policy. He said it was originally designed to be for students not motivated in high school because they didn’t have any interest in the programs Lodi offered, and Madison College would provide them these opportunities.

“The way we have it set up, MATC is not going to get those kids and there’s nothing we can do,” he said. “The kids that excel already, it’s a great opportunity but I don’t believe it accomplishes what I believe the ‘why’ should be.”

Madison College’s entrance criteria requires students to have a 3.25 grade point average and 90% attendance rate. Ricks believes this is a high bar for the students the district is looking to attract.

Vice President Adam Steinberg said the school district has already identified students that would be a good fit for this program and, when the policy is in place, they may apply. Pursell said the board also needs to develop a procedure in how they select candidates, which will come with discussions in the future.

Steinberg made a motion to approve the policy draft but amending the GPA requirement from 3.25 to 2.25. The motion passed 5-2 with Ricks and Bill Wipperfurth voting no.

In addition to the meeting, the School Board also received an update to the superintendent search. They received a list of applicants on Thursday, Jan. 16 and will review the applicants on Monday, Jan. 27 to decide who they will be interviewing.

The first round of interviews will begin in early February and a second round of interviews is planned for late February. The board expects to announce who the new superintendent will be in the middle of March.

In other business, the School Board approved the following:

  • Stadium project update
  • Open enrollment limits for 2020-2021 school year
  • Donation of $100 from Larry and Barbara Johnson to the food service program to assist financially struggling families
  • Recognition of stadium fund donations/donors

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