Sandhill evauated after spill Friday morning

Sandhill Elementary School was evacuated Friday morning after a specimen jar in a classroom broke, spilling unknown liquids.

In a letter sent to parents Friday, Stoughton Area School District spokesperson Derek Spellman said a student had brought an animal in a jar preserved in an unknown solution for a class presentation. The jar fell and broke around 10 a.m., spilling the contents, which Spellman said school officials suspect is formaldehyde of an unknown concentration.

As a precaution, students were quickly moved out of the classroom, and acting on the advice of the district’s environmental consultant, the entire school was evacuated to neighboring LakeView Church.

Spellman said staff members are closely observing students, and have not seen anyone showing signs of “adverse health reactions.” Still, students will not be re-admitted until the consultant has cleared the building.


Mulan Jr. photos

River Bluff Middle School students performed Disney’s “Mulan Jr.” Friday, April 10, and Saturday, April 11, at the Stoughton High School Performing Arts Center. The show follows a young woman in China who pretends to be a man to serve in the country’s army in a battle against the Huns. Above, a group of girls await the Matchmaker.


Stoughton school board approves staffing changes

With enrollment continuing to decline, the Stoughton Area School Board approved several staffing cuts for next school year, while also approving several additions. The net increase will save the district around $72,000.

Two full-time teachers at Sandhill Elementary will be cut, as well as one full-time teacher at Kegonsa Elementary, a full-time district interpreter, a part-time math teacher at River Bluff Middle School and a part-time math teacher at Stoughton High School. The district will add a full-time eighth-grade reading teacher and special education learning strategist at River Bluff, two full-time educational assistants at Sandhill, part-time educational assistants at Sandhill, Fox Prairie and Kegonsa elementary schools (one-year temporary positions) and a part-time district orchestra teacher.


‘Drug-free kid’ book provided to parents

Thanks to a grant from the Stoughton Area Community Foundation, StoughtonCARES has purchased copies of the cook, “How to Raise a Drug-Free Kid: The Straight Dope for Parents” for all fifth-graders in the community.

The book will be provided to parents to further education in the prevention of alcohol and drug abuse – a goal of StoughtonCARES, according to a press release this week from the group.  The book’s author, Joseph Califano Jr., is the founder of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.


‘Words Hurt’

Photos by Mark Ignatowski. Lydia Bjordahl and Julia Olson sign their names on an anti-bullying pledge paper.

Last week, Stoughton High School students viewed a short anti-bullying video made by 2014 SHS graduate Alex Hanneman as part of the school’s “Words Hurt” week programming. The video, which was incorporated into a lesson plan for teachers, was created last year by a group formed at the school called “Youth Max.”

The group was made up of 25 teacher-recommended student leaders and targeted bullying and acceptance as issues to address.

Throughout the week, students signed a pledge to be conscious of language and also to share stories of when language has healed or hurt them. They posted stories along a wall, with their pledges.

On Friday, students wore T-shirts as part of their “Spread the word to end the word” activity.


School board OKs 10-year capital plan

Even in a financially hard-pressed school district like Stoughton’s, it’s important to maintain and upgrade buildings and facilities, and district officials have a plan in place they feel comfortable with. 

Last Monday, the school board approved around $5.3 million in capital improvements to all schools and district facilities, after district buildings and grounds supervisor Calvin Merath briefly outlined some of the planned work, none of which are major projects. 

“A lot of our buildings are relatively newer, and that’s definitely a good place to be sitting,” he said. 


Preparing for careers

Photos submitted. Stoughton High School students Ben Erickson and Jared Braaten are learning all about engines as part of the school’s Youth Apprenticeship program. They are two of 13 SHS students enrolled in the growing program this year, which provides students with on-the-job training with local businesses, as well as high school credits.

It’s not easy for high school students to figure out what they want to do for a career while they’re still teenagers.

In the Stoughton Area School District, they can turn to school-to-career coordinator Cindy Vaughn, who oversees a youth apprenticeship program that is growing steadily.

This year it has 14 Stoughton High School students working as youth apprentices, “by far” the most the school has ever had, said Vaughn, who has overseen the program for all of its four years. She said the number of participating students will likely increase next school year, as well. 

“It’s a lot of kids, (but) we have the potential for more,” Vaughn said. “Our numbers have steadily increased over time; this year we’ve just seen really nice numbers.”


Water safe again at River Bluff

File photo by Mark Ignatowski With elevated lead levels still found in the drinking water at River Bluff Middle School in January, the district provided bottled drinking water.

A months-long search to find the source of lead contamination at River Bluff Middle School culminated in a report issued last week that split the blame between the school district and utility. 

But what is crystal clear is that the water is considered safe to drink again, and district officials will work in the next few weeks to turn the taps back on. 

The report, released last week from an independent third party, Process Research Solutions of Madison, wraps up a “comprehensive look” at the issue that began in January, according to a letter sent Monday by the Stoughton Area School District to parents and community members. Stoughton Utilities and the school district split the estimated $5,500 cost of hiring the consultant after the two sides could not agree on the source of and responsibility for the lead contamination. 


State budget would cut aid, change tests

Public school officials around the state are speaking out against Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial State Education 2015-17 budget proposal.

That includes administrators and school board members in the Stoughton Area School District, who drafted a letter to Walker and other legislators this week, outlining their problems with some proposals, including a large cut to state funding and new limits on revenue caps that local school boards can set.

While a cut to the expected increase in per-student funding and revenue caps would likely have the greatest effect on the day-to-day operations of the district and on residents’ property taxes, that’s not the only major change possibly ahead.


Dreaming of Summer photos

Stoughton High School students perform “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” last weekend at the SHS Performing Arts Center.