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A Sonora High Trustees Meeting Full Of ‘Minor Modifications’

Sonora, CA — Tonight, in a meeting involving “a lot of minor modifications,” the Sonora High School Board will address construction plans and bullying policies.

In the words of Sonora High School Union District Superintendent Pat Chabot, during the trustees initial 2016 meeting, they will touch on numerous topics while setting up for the new year. Ahead of a final decision later this month, the members will discuss whether the $5 million remaining of $23 million in Measure J bond monies should be focused more towards the high school’s swimming pool project or on improvements slated for its Centennial Hall building. Chabot says, at this point, the board seems to be leaning towards going ahead with plans for the pool and limiting the building modifications to air conditioning, IT and other infrastructural systems.

Cheerfully reporting on progress with the current on-campus improvement activities, Chabot notes, “We are looking for some of this construction being finished but we are getting through it…we have a new Humanities Building this year and next year we will have a new cafeteria — and possibly — we will be starting in on the pool.” The track and field look to be complete in time for June graduation he confirms and the cafeteria should be ready to go in time for the next school year. Although he admits the temporary food service outbuildings and makeshift two-classroom “dining hall” in the Humanities Building are “not a perfect fix,” the students are coping well.

From his office window, Chabot reports at least one backhoe actively digging. “We are going to be tearing up the track and field very soon…probably starting in on it at the end of this week but we are doing some preliminary work right now,” he explains.

Elaborating, Chabot shares, “Our…existing cafeteria is being really gutted…we have fencing all the way around it and our students have to walk quite a ways around it…to make sure that they are safe. We have been digging up and putting new waterlines…some electrical lines and everything else, and so it has been an very interesting two-week break that [the contractors] have been working on it.” Ruefully noting that it was necessary more than once to shut off utilities when lines were inadvertently hit over the holiday recess, he confides, “We have a lot of conduit that is buried that we did not realize exactly where it was — an old school like this has those kinds of problems.”

A Stronger Stance Against Bullying 

At tonight’s meeting, Chabot says the trustees will seek to adopt a new board policy on bullying. Specifically, as he puts it, “We already prohibited bullying but now we have an actual board policy that was recommended by the California School Boards Association, so we have…taken their policy and…adopting it here for Sonora High School.” The document states that no student or group of students shall, through physical, written, verbal, or other means, harass, sexually harass, threaten, intimidate, cyberbully, cause bodily injury to, or commit hate violence against any other student or school personnel. Besides laying out zero tolerance for these actions, the policy supports establishing uniform complaint systems within schools. For the details within the straightforward, nearly five-page document, click here.

In related actions, as required under new laws, the board expects to approve changes to inter-district attendance policy allowing bullying as an approved qualifying reason to transfer to another school. Other changes reflecting district practice include child care needs or if a sibling is attending school in another district. Another policy regarding student use of technology has been updated that clarifies circumstances were lawful searches may be made on personal devices and sets appropriate student conduct when using the Internet or other electronic communications.

Chabot notes that his school culture report to the trustees will include that, over the winter break, he and principals Ben Howell and Roy Morland completed two days of instruction to become certified ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) survival trainers so that they are able to educate the rest of the school staff on the handling of such on-campus emergencies as in the event of an active shooter attack.

Among its consent agenda items, the trustees will accept a $1,250 donation from the Tuolumne Band of Mi-wuk Indians to the Athletics Dept. to help offset unexpected costs it sustained as a result of last month’s state play-off game. Chabot gratefully acknowledges, “The football game we hosted was quite an expense to get things ready — we were expecting some rain…did extra work to the track that cost us some money…so we want to thank the Mi-wuk Indians and [Black Oak] Casino for helping us out.” The board will also accept $600 from the Matuca Chapter of E Clampus Vitus that will re-establish a Trap Club scholarship at the high school.

Also awaiting the trustees’ formal approval is Sonora High’s spring coaching staff. New this year as Varsity Baseball Coach is English Dept. Head Will Sarkisian, a new teaching hire last school year with a baseball coaching and playing background, according to Chabot. Wrestling Coach John Abernathy will additionally take on the title Varsity Softball Coach. Former JV Girls’ Soccer Coach Kurt Wolken will move into the varsity slot with Rebekah Garvin taking on the JV duties. Also moving up to Head Swimming Coach is former Assistant Swimming Coach Josh Martin.

Tonight’s meeting begins at 6 in the first-floor district conference room (100 School St., Sonora).