By Jann Wiswall

Construction on the renovation of Ellicottville Central School is scheduled to begin July 29, but if you’re expecting to see wrecking balls and demolition of the gym, you’ll have to wait. The first step in the process is environmental remediation, which is mostly behind the scenes.

Superintendent Mark Ward explained that notices about the environmental work will be announced in local papers and on signage placed outside of the building. The goal is to complete asbestos abatement and other related work before school begins.

Meanwhile, final contracts for the general contractor and the electrical, plumbing and mechanical contractors should be signed by school board president Carl Calarco in the next week or two, allowing for final planning and scheduling of their work. School based preparations have begun in earnest — most impacted rooms have been emptied, temporary storage units for sporting equipment have been ordered and plans for holding middle/high school physical education classes during construction are being developed.

New Tablet Computers

Ward said parents of all rising juniors and advanced sophomores will be receiving a letter in August explaining policies related to the tablet computers being supplied to those students. Parents will be asked to purchase insurance on the tablets, which will enable students to take their computers home throughout the year. If parents opt out of purchasing insurance, their children will only be permitted to use their devices at school.

Status Updates

Ward reported that the school’s insurance carrier will cover most of the repair bill for the bus garage roof that was damaged by high winds this spring.

The new copiers that have been ordered will arrive this week; staff will be trained on their use.

The board approved Ward’s recommendation to sell two vehicles and some used equipment on a website called Auctions International. In addition, the board approved a plan to look for and purchase a used pickup truck for the school on that site, which is widely used by schools and other organizations across the country. The board will allow Ward to authorize a bid of up to $23,000 for its purchase if one becomes available. Bids from area auto dealers also will be obtained. School staff will inspect the vehicles before completing any purchase.

Ward also announced that Leah Klahn has been hired as a full-time elementary teacher. Klahn holds a professional teaching certificate in NYS Childhood Education 1-6, a master’s degree and additional graduate credit hours, and also has extensive special education teaching experience. She will be teaching the third grade come September.

Regents Results

Middle/High School Principal Bob Miller provided the board with statistical analyses of this year’s Regents exam scores compared with the 2013 scores and a look at the five-year trend.

The good news is that more students received passing grades or better over 2013 on the English Language Arts, Algebra 2/Trigonometry, U.S. History and Biology exams. While there was a small drop in the number of total students passing Chemistry, there was a significant increase in students passing that exam with a grade of 85 percent or better.

A surprising drop in the number of students passing the Integrated Algebra exam (69 percent of students passed, compared to 95 percent last year) has the staff’s attention. Miller said that these were “not the results we were hoping for,” but explained that 2014 was the first year the state has offered two Integrated Algebra exams — the second is based on the new Common Core curriculum — and felt that students may have been overloaded with two exams on their plates on top of a new curriculum. Teachers and administrators will be working hard to improve results next year.

Relatively small drops over last year also were seen on the Earth Science, Global History and Geometry exams, but as Miller pointed out, a 2 or 3 percent change can be the result of one student’s grade.

The next meeting of the school board will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the high school library. During that meeting, the board expects to review and/or approve the 2014-15 District Code of Conduct and other school policies. All are welcome to attend.