Changes coming for Putnam County R-I School District

Superintendent Heath Halley has had a rough start to the 2012-2013 school year.

On July 24, incidents that allegedly occurred on a school bus resulted in Ricky Parris, a contracted bus driver for the Putnam County School District, getting arrested and charged with child molestation. Since then, the district formed its own transportation department, hired a transportation director, and has now lease/purchased 18 school buses, which are 2010/2011 models.

"The cost was $1.1 million. So, the first three years they're payments of $280,000 per year. The fourth year it drops to $60,000," said Heath Halley. "So, obviously the cost up front is very impactful on the school budget. It's not so significant that we can't handle it or deal with it, but obviously that's why we lease/purchased it."

Seven of the buses arrived on August 13. Halley said he has been working overtime to make sure that all of the school bus drivers hired by the district have passed background and drug tests.

"We're good to go. We will have everybody certified and qualified before the first key turns over. There won't be anybody that drives for us that isn't."

New school busses aren't the only thing that the Putnam County R-I School District has in store for this upcoming 2012-2013 school year. Halley has had his hands tied with overseeing the renovation of the district's athletic facilities.

"We put in an in ground watering system for the football field, which couldn't have come in a better year with the extreme drought. We're installing a new locker room, visitor's locker room and the restrooms at the football area. Obviously, the big thing is the new, all weather track. We have the fence in, the asphalt is done, the rock work has been completed."

According to Halley, the district received a $115,000 grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health, and a $91,500 grant from the Department of Natural Resources for using recycled rubber for the track. Also, the district collected $80,000 in donations for the project. Halley said the track should be complete by October 2012.

Putnam County teachers will return to work Aug.16 for professional days and the students will return to school on Aug. 21.