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School board members Susan Brinkman and Art Gutierrez listen while Superintendent Kevin Case speaks during a Wednesday meeting.

The USD 253 Board of Education approved the formation of a task force to evaluate Maynard Early Childhood Center Wednesday night.

According to Emporia Public Schools Superinetendent Kevin Case, there have been discussions of early learning needs within the school district. He proposed forming a task force to look into Maynard Early Childhood Center and if any changes need to be made.

“The charge of the task force would be to research and provide their recommendations to the board of education on our early learning facility needs,” he said. “Including, but not limited to, liability in the existing facility, potential benefits of a new facility, possible location of a new facility and other pertinent information related to meeting the educational needs for our 3- and 4-year-old students.”

He recommended the committee be made up of about 10 to 12 individuals.

Case said people have already been selected by the board to potentially sit on the Maynard task force, but these people haven’t been contacted and asked to take places on the task force yet. He hopes the task force would be able to meet within the next two to four weeks.

Case said he believed the Maynard task force, once assembled, could perform an assessment of the facility and report back to the district on its findings by early-to-mid August.

Board member Susan Brinkman expressed uncertainty that the group would be able to finish its assessment in that amount of time.

However, Case said he believes it’s doable.

The board voted in favor of forming the task force to look into the district’s early childhood education needs.

The bilingual education budget increase of $293,595 to $1,817,766 total was proposed due to changes at the state level, according to Case.

There was a public hearing held to discuss the change to that portion of the budget, but no members of the public showed up to voice an opinion.

The increase to the bilingual education budget was accepted unanimously by the board.

Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Kelly Bolin delivered an employment update to the district.

The district lost 61 educators this year. According to Bolin, only 51 of these were permanent members of the district’s staff and the other 10 losses were of staff who had been on one-year contracts.

According to Bolin, the latest crop of graduates was scant on individuals interested in going into education, but future classes are looking good. She believes the shortage of educators in this year’s graduating class to be partly due to a bad reputation teachers have gained in recent years due to social media. However, that view seems to be changing.

“We’re going to curve back up now,” she said. “So the ESU class that’s about to graduate? One of the biggest they have — that they’ve had in a while.”

More important than asking what is behind negativity, Bolin said, is to focus on what is helping — namely, the removal of the stigma that has plagued teaching as a career in recent years.

“It’s a positive social media campaign that’s getting people to value the craft of teaching and having parents encourage children, having teacher pathways in our high schools to encourage students to become teachers,” she said.

Bolin also walked the district through information about an application for a safety grant. The board approved the application.

The district also heard an update on their insurance policy. Fees are going up for property and casualty insurance due to an increase of natural disasters around the country, including floods, fires and tornados.

Brinkman, who said she sat in on a city study session, said the city had much the same discussion about insurance.

“Fires and floods and extreme weather events have caused premiums to go up exponentially for many municipalities and public interests,” she said, “Ours is — actually we’re really pretty lucky it’s not going up more.”

The district voted in favor of accepting the insurance quotes.

The district accepted the single bid that met its requirements for milk and juice products, one from EVCO totaling $ 258,623.31.

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