Onekama students facing busy testing season

ONEKAMA — The Onekama Consolidated Schools Board of Education learned this week from counselor Scott McKenney just how much students at all levels are tested during the course of a school year.

“As you are aware as a board, the state looks at doing a lot more testing than we have in the past and it increases every year,” said McKenney. “Sometimes a lot of parents and even board members aren’t aware of how much testing we really do.”

McKenney said starting next year students in kindergarten, first and second grades have to take the state Early Literacy and math exams three times (September, February and April) in the school year.

“This is basically an M-STEP test for those lower grades  and those tests will be consolidated together and that will be one of the determining factors if a child is going to be retained because of the reading abilities (third grade reading law),” said McKenney. “Not only do they have to take that test, but they have to take the North Western Evaluation Association (NWEA) tests, because we have to have a local test as well. So kindergarten, first and second grade students have to take that one three times as well or six tests in all during the year.”

He said students in third to eighth grade will be taking the M-STEP in reading, mathematics, writing, science and social studies.

“They are taking mathematics and reading and some grades are taking science and social studies,” said McKenney. “Our 11th grade students are also taking the science and social studies tests. So essentially we have kids in the months of April and May in kindergarten through eighth grade start taking the M-STEP or Early Literacy tests and our juniors are taking the SAT and they also are taking the M-STEP.”

McKenney said the testing doesn’t stop there as their eighth to 10th grade students prepare to take the SAT by taking the PSAT.

“We have been very busy, and if you look at the month of April the testing schedule has been booked,” said McKenney.

He said high school seniors have been busy in a variety of ways preparing for college.

“Shelly Rife does a majority of those things for us in preparing the seniors to graduate and move on to the next level,” said McKenney. “Our students applied to 60 colleges and universities this year and all of our seniors applied to at least one college whether it was a local one or a university.”

McKenney said they had a FAFSA financial aid information night at the school in October that was attended by 10 parents and two seniors. A financial aid representative from West Shore Community College was present for that program.

“We also had a countywide one this year and we were very successful in both programs to allow parents to find out about the FAFSA and we are going to continue to do that program in the future,” said McKenney.

Board members were given an overview by superintendent Kevin Hughes of projects and their cost. One project (windors and doors) is being funding with remaining bond funds and the rest will using sinking funds.

“One of my goals for my evaluation was to set up 10 year sinking fund budget with a committee to decide how those sinking funds were going to be used,” said Hughes. ” You can amend this or modify it any way you would like. We get $317,854 every year from that one mill that that voters approved and this is not anything that is set in stone and you can change it at any time.”

They also have a carryover from the previous year of $10,694 for a total of $328,548 and $120,000 of that will be earmarked student technology and they also plan to spend another $134,000 of sinking funds in building expenses leaving a balance of $74,548.

Hughes stressed that those funds from the sinking fund can only be used for building repairs or improvements and it can not be used for personnel or staff. The building expenses will include classroom updates ($30,000), heating and cooling ($30,000), bathroom updates ($5,000), tennis/basketball court ($17,000) and red dirt for the softball/baseball diamonds ($52,000).

“Technology will always be a line item in the sinking fund as we are going to ask the board to enter into an agreement for that (board approved 6-0) for $369,689 for three years (lease) for Apple iPads and MacBooks,” said Hughes.

He said they also have put in a regular line item for heating and cooling.

“We put an extra line item in for heating and cooling because it became apparent every year something was going so we put a placeholder in so if we have to replace a motor we can do it with sinking funds,” said Hughes. “So we are trying to stay ahead of these things so we don’t have any big expenses in the next few years.”

Wolgast Construction will be serving as construction manager on these projects and this week senior project manager Luke Gerhart brought bids for three of the projects. One of those was for window and door replacements (bond money not sinking funds), basketball/tennis court resurfacing (sinking funds) and baseball and softball dirt replacement (sinking funds).

“Over the course of the last month or so we solicited bids for these three projects,” said Gerhart. “Our award for the windows and doors would be for Denali Construction of Mt. Pleasant ($100,370), and for the basketball and tennis courts we are recommending Pro Services of Elsie for $17,000 and for the ballfields Water Management for $52,000.”

Gerhart said they will help the district even after Hughes retires on July 1.

“We have been here for a long time and will continue to do so even after Kevin leaves in the future,” said Gerhart.

Board members approved the bids on a 6-0 vote.


Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at

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