South Putnam board clears rumors, says aquaculture lab will not close
Many concerned parents and students showed up to the South Putnam School Board on Tuesday evening hoping to find out more information regarding the school's aquaculture lab.
The board cleared up rumors that the aquaculture program at South Putnam High School would be closing following the loss of hundreds of fish after apparent overfeeding during winter break.
"This is strictly rumor," board member Steve Cash said. "There are no plans by the board to stop raising fish."
South Putnam Superintendent Bruce Bernhardt noted that members are very proud of the lab and have no intention of closing it.
"We are very proud that we have an outstanding agriculture department that has received statewide and national acclaim," explained Bernhardt. "We want to see all that continue in the future."
The aquaculture lab was set up to provide students with a hands-on approach to not only running a business but caring and learning about animal life. Students are able to feed the fish, clean the tanks as well as help other animals in the lab.
On more than one occasion during the superintendent's report, board members reiterated that they have absolutely no intention of closing the lab.
"We want to see that it's maintained at a high level," said Bernhardt. "We are all very much in favor and proud of what it's done."
Although, Bernhardt did not have an exact number of how many fish were found dead following winter break, he admitted the cause was having too much feed in the tanks.
"The matter is being investigated," Bernhardt said. "If it can be resolved, it will be as quickly as possible."
The fish are said to be in good health following a report to the board from Matt Griswold. It is estimated that about 500 fish survived, many however have eye and skin problems.
"They're monitoring the tanks and feeding them according to weight," board President Mike Rissler said.
Tuesday night was the first time the board had spoken publicly on the issue since rumors began in early January.
"We might have been able to avoid what happened over Christmas break if we utilized volunteer help," said concerned resident My Gilley, who also commented on the lack of a public statement.
It is estimated that among all the tanks, the fish totaled around 2,000. All the fish did not die. Pending the investigation many of the fish could possibly be replaced.
The board also approved a resolution amending the Plan of Organization and Manner of Election during Tuesday evenings meeting. The new resolution will provide equal representation for all districts.
Previously electoral districts elected board members. However due to population changes, several districts have a far higher population than others.
In order to equal out the populations, voting will now be done by residential districts. The general population will elect board members as a whole rather than voting on members only in their district.
"State law says we have to do it a different way than the way that we are," said Rissler. "It's the same as it is now, but you vote for every member."
A similar situation is happening with North Putnam as well. The board also stated that Cloverdale has already implemented this new policy.
The board also announce the resignations of bus driver Kim Franklin, Rita Latham of Reelsville Elementary, Gail Sutche of Central Elementary, Brian Gardner of South Putnam High School and Guy Gaston of the sewage plant.
They also approved the retirement of JoAnne Bryan of Fillmore Elementary and the new hirings of Marcy Young as high school nurse, Nellie Hayes as a part-time special education student assistant, Lori Evans as a Fillmore part-time instructional assistant, Kristie Bumgardner as a part-time instructional assistant, and Tina Pitts as a Reelsville instructional assistant.
Bernhardt did state that all new hires were to replace those retiring.