Hayden to get new lights on ball field

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The Hayden High School football field will be much brighter next year, thanks to the district's plans to install new lights.

The Hayden School Board on Wednesday Ok'd Athletics Director Kevin Kleckler's proposal to begin replacing the old lights, which have been in place since 1972, with new lights after the football team's last home game Oct. 25.

Kleckler spent the summer gathering more than $23,000 in donations from area businesses and organizations to cover most of the project's costs. That leaves the district with about $14,500 in out-of-pocket expenses, though Kleckler eventually will reimburse at least $10,000 of that with rebates from Pepsi Co., which provides the district's beverages, Kleckler said.

Three of the eight current wood power poles did not pass a recent inspection. The new lights also will be installed on wood poles, which were much less expensive than steel versions, which cost about $50,000 each, Kleckler said.

School Board member Tory Wertenberger advised Kleckler to make sure the new 65-foot poles won't violate any height restrictions for lights; however, high school Principal Troy Zabel said the district may be exempt from such regulations.

Project donors include the town of Hayden, which will be contributing $4,000 to the project, and Craig-based Cromer Construction, which is donating $12,000 in labor. Yampa Valley Electric Association, DNT Electric and General Electric are helping with electrical materials and labor.

Also at Wednesday's School Board meeting, board members determined that the district will reimburse parents who drive their children to bus stops. The decision came at the request of Rio Blanco rancher Tom Benjamin, who said his ranch manager was driving 48 miles a day to take his children to the nearest bus stop.

Transportation director Bob Anderson advised the board that the road to Benjamin's house was too narrow for safe passage by a bus. Superintendent Mike Luppes informed the board that compensation miles for families could be included in the district's overall mileage count, for which they are reimbursed by the state.

"If we can do it at no expense to the district, it's something I'd like to see happen," he said.

The district only will reimburse families for in-district miles, and it will test the program for one year before a decision is made whether to include mileage costs for kindergarteners.

Anderson estimated about four families in which children are driven to bus stops. For budgeting purposes, all families who want compensation will have to make arrangements with the district by Oct. 1.

Also Wednesday, Luppes reported that overall district enrollment is down by about 12 students compared to this time last year. Most of the difference is because of enrollment at Hayden Valley Elementary School, which decreased by about 20 students from the end of the 2003-04 school year.

Counting cyberschool and preschool students, enrollment will come in above what the district budgeted for, though that wasn't encouraging to Luppes.

"I'm disappointed by our overall count," he said.

The state funds school districts based on student numbers, which must be submitted by Oct. 1.

In other business, the board approved the new administrative structure at the elementary school, in which Title 1 reading teacher Rhonda Sweetser will assume some leadership responsibilities. Luppes, who assumed the superintendent role in August after former superintendent Scott Mader resigned, will remain principal until the district searches for a new principal in the spring.

Luppes said the structure was a chance to bring the school's staff closer together.

"We really think it's an opportunity to do some things we've been wanting to do at the elementary for a long time," he said.

Parent Tina Fry spoke positively about the school's new structure and commended the board for weathering a tumultuous summer that included two principals' resignations.

"It's been such a difficult summer," she said. "You've taken something perceived as negative and really turned it around to something positive."

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com

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