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Career Academy expansion

Jim Vanderloo, left, the Sioux City Community School District's director of secondary education and activities, and Brian Fahrendholz, the district's director of operations and maintenance, in December show space that will be used to expand the district's Career Academy courses. A bid of $1.5 million for work on the project was approved Monday.

SIOUX CITY -- It will cost roughly $1.5 million to build a large suite of specialty rooms to hold Sioux City School District Career Academy courses in a downtown location.

The Sioux City School Board on Monday approved a $1,556,200 contract with Nelson Construction and Development Inc., of Sioux City, for the construction renovation contract in the Sioux City Public Museum, which adjoins school district administrative offices in the Education Service Center.

The district's growing Career Academy allows students to take specialty courses in 30 so-called pathways, covering business and marketing, family and consumer science, health science, and industrial technology. Career Academy courses aren't offered in the three public high schools, at East, North and West.

School district Director of Operations and Maintenance Brian Fahrendholz said bids were opened on Thursday, and Nelson had the lowest of four bids. A close bid came from H&R Construction, at $1,577,200.

The budget for the renovations had been estimated at $1.8 million, and the other two bids also came in under that mark. School board president Mike Krysl called the Nelson bid "very good news."

The new Career Pathways Campus rooms will go in a second-floor portion of the museum building, which at one time housed a Delta Air Lines call center before it closed in 2012. The classrooms will run from 1,500 to 2,000 square feet.

In a previous step, the school district in mid-July approved a purchase agreement with Museum Building Property Inc. to pay $1.5 million for 75,000 square feet of the museum building at 607 Fourth St.

District officials are moving toward the goal of centralizing the locations where students complete upper-level Career Academy coursework. The goal is to eventually only use the high schools to administer the introductory Career Academy courses.

Parents raise bullying issues in meeting

Also on Monday, Sioux City parent Kristi Rice, and a few other people, spoke in the public comment portion for the second meeting in a row about bullying.

Rice is the mother of a North High School student who was bullied online in December. She said the school district has approved a requested transfer to West High, but she won't allow Spencer Rice, her 15-year-old autistic son, to return to classes until he receives a new teacher's aide and assurances of a safe and timely bus ride.

She expanded her comments to include other special education students. Rice said she's learned some such students have been pulled out of final period classes about 10 minutes early, in order to get to buses going home.

Rice said that isn't known by families, so district officials should be informing them. Rice said the district also owes each student compensatory education for each minute of instruction lost.

"They are missing educational opportunities daily," Rice said.

In the cyber bullying incident in December, a poll posted online by an unknown user asked other students whether Spencer Rice should be killed.

Rice said she was instructed by a district administrator that Spencer could begin attending West High on Feb. 19. She has refused, citing failed attempts since Jan. 8 to set up a safety plan for him.

Rice and four others on Feb. 12 raised their concerns about district policies and other aspects related to bullying during the public forum portion of the board meeting. Because it came during the public forum, school board members were prevented by law from responding to the assertions by Rice and others.

On Monday, Rice and two of the other people who spoke two weeks ago  -- Jeana Guy and Judy Crosthwait -- again spoke about bullying issues. Guy said she looks forward to a meeting on March 12, when Superintendent Paul Gausman has agreed to discuss district bullying policies.

District officials have claimed to have made major strides in combating bullying after attracting national attention for the 2011 film "Bully," which featured an East Middle School student being tormented by peers. In the aftermath of the award-winning film, school officials took a series of actions to ensure parents they were taking the issue of bullying seriously.

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County and education reporter

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