By Josh Hatcher

The Ellicottville Central Schools Board of Education is “working out” the feasibility of opening the weight room to the community.

School Superintendent Mark Ward brought up the idea at the Tuesday, Dec. 8 board meeting, explaining that the new weight room has 16 weight and workout machines in addition to free weights.

“Some school districts just open them up for the community to use – at specific times, of course,” Ward explained that a number of details would need to be worked out, and board members and administrators volleyed some ideas back and forth.

“Does our insurance offer an incentive if we have a wellness program? That’s something we could look into for our faculty and staff,” remarked board member Nichole Klein.

Ward seemed to be in favor of opening the weight room to the community, though he does want it to be open to people who have children who attend, people who live in the district, and not necessarily people from other towns. “We’ve got to figure out what the rules are, who uses it and when they use it.” He thought it was a good thing to open up to the taxpayers who helped to fund it in the first place.

Athletic teams are already using it for training, and this week a 60-inch screen arrived and will be installed. “The TV is connected to the web, they can watch YouTube or DVD’s and see demonstrations right there in front of them,” explained Ward.

The board also discussed staffing the weight room and tossed out names of people who may be interested. They agreed to research the issue further and discuss it at a future board meeting to make a plan.

Ward also gave his update regarding the capital improvement project: “We are definitely winding down. I know – I say we’re winding down every two weeks, but we really are almost there,” quipped Ward.

The company that installed the bleachers came back to make sure they were firmly and securely anchored to the walls, and added hardware to stairs on the bleachers. Ward explained that before this was done he was concerned about a very visible gap that could trip up a small child, but, he assured the board, that’s taken care of.

Previously the board discussed adding a retractable curtain to protect the wood near the stage area and the wooden bleachers. Ward said he thinks they may have found a cheaper option. “To spend $15 thousand out of our regular budget seems a bit overkill. I think we can come up with a cheaper solution. We’re working on that.”

The APPR negotiations are set to start meeting again in the new year. Ward says that he anticipates that the board and the teachers union can come to an agreement before March. “If we don’t – we have to file for another extension, and I don’t think getting a second one will be quite as easy.”

Middle/High School Principal Bob Miller and Ward both attended a State Police program that covered information regarding disaster preparedness, particularly in the instance of a school attack.

“We learned quite a bit, and we’ll share it with the safety committee. This is ever evolving, and we need to be tweaking our safety precautions. If you think something can’t happen here, don’t be foolish.”

He explained that school districts need to have a plan, and to practice it. He explained that the school will be practicing some of those skills in the near future with a lockdown drill and training for the new teachers, assistants and aides.

Last month, the board looked into the possibility of purchasing a used wheelchair van. A board member asked for an update, and Ward explained that the district would not be pursuing the purchase after finding out that particular kind of wheelchair transport van is actually illegal for schools to use in NY State.

“What we have is fine for now,” said Ward. “We’ll keep our eye out for something else that may work for us,” explaining that their original intent was to find something a little more maneuverable than the current bus.

The board approved an SAT prep course, to be held in the mornings. Miller explained that since the five-day-a-week prep course has been put into place, SAT scores have gone up.

“We’ve had several 700s and an increase in scores overall.”

The class runs through March 4, and two teachers rotate Math and English each morning, receiving a $1000 stipend for coming in early to help the students prepare.

The next meeting of the ECS School Board is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the High School Library.