LONG BEACH - With only a week to go before the start of the 2007-08 school year, the Ocean Beach School District is expecting more students than budgeted for the second year in a row.

District business manager Linda Thompson reported at Monday night's school board meeting that Ilwaco Junior/Senior High School saw more than 30 new students enroll in the past week.

Superintendent Rainer Houser noted that Long Beach School is in the process of hiring another first grade teacher as well.

The district has budgeted for fewer than the expected number to be fiscally conservative in view of the fact that enrollment historically drops as the year progresses.

Construction newsHouser reported that the protracted struggle with RB&G Construction is finally over, the firm having been terminated from their contract with the district. The bonding company Zurich is now in negotiations with the district for a new contract that will complete work at the three schools, most notably Hilltop. Zurich will bring in a new contractor, Team Build Project Management, a subsidiary of Howard S. Wright Construction. Houser said they should have a new agreement in place by the second week of September, allowing them to start work by October.

Trying not to waste any more time than has been already, Houser said the district signed some "side contracts" for exterior work to be done on Hilltop "while we still have the weather." The work, which started this week, will include ground work, priming and painting as well as repair and completion of sidewalks.

"Everything is looking positive at this point and we're moving ahead," Houser said. "We're hoping it proceeds without any further snags."

In other good construction news, Houser reported that the iron work to the high school stadium is in its final days. With all the repairs having been completed, all that is left is completion of painting, which should be done by the end of this week.

New IHS principal Marc Simmons, who was formally introduced to the board Monday night, reported that the school's new electronic reader board sign is in transit and should be arriving any time. As to its lack of expediency in getting here, he joked, "Maybe they got caught in the Ilwaco road construction."

Monday was back-to-school day at the high school for Simmons' staff, which he reported went well. The entire district staff is taking part in in-service meetings all this week in preparation of next Tuesday's start of the school year.

"It's good to have everyone back," said Houser who joked, "There's lots of happy, positive faces out there, despite great weather outside."

During a work session prior to the start of the regular meeting, the board discussed the upcoming levy vote, set to go before the electorate on Feb. 19, 2008. The levy is a renewal of the maintenance and operations levy the district has relied upon for years to help fill out its operating budget each year. Houser said they are currently working on the financial data which will spell out exactly how much the levy will be for.

He also acknowledged his support for the impending Initiative 4204, which will be voted on in November, would change the current required 60 percent super-majority to pass school bonds and levies to that of a simple majority. If passed, the simple majority rule will be in affect for the February levy vote. This could be very helpful for the district, which did not have its levy pass on the first try last time.

During their work session, the board also discussed their new strategic plan for the district. Still an initial draft, the focus will be on math, balancing the budget, deciding what to do with unused and potentially unused district properties and community relations pertaining to the February levy vote.

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