USD 382: Robotics, choir, gating successes shared at April meeting

Ruby Howell
Pratt Tribune
Pratt High School 2021 robotics team members (from left) Andrew VanSlyke (jr), Celeste Edwards, Nick Vail (sr), Hogan Thompson (sr), Justice Fanning (jr), Derrick Newby (sr), Heath Sharp (advisor) brought their club trophy from a recent virtual competition to the April USD 382 BOE meeting to show board members.

Two Pratt High School activity groups made presentations at the April 12, 2021 meeting of the Pratt USD 382 Board of Education, extending the timein session but enlightening those in attendance as to what these groups have been up to. Board of Education President Bill Bergner called the meeting to order at the ACE building, noting the attendance of Pratt High Student Council  representatives.

First on the agenda was the PHS Robotics team, who gave a presentation about their club and the recent awards they won this past season. The presentation was led by Andrew Van Slyke (jr), team manager, Nick Vail (sr), head programmer, and Mr. Heath Sharp (advisor).  The Robotics team has been at PHS since 2006, and they have competed through several organizations throughout the years. This year, robotics looked a little different due to COVID-19. However, the PHS team did not falter with all the change and won their local hub competition, as well the Top Gun Overall Team Award. 

In both these competitions, the Greenbacks faced big-city schools and schools from different states like Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Arkansas. VanSlyke told the board about the differences this year. Usually, teams are given a list of materials, and must build a robot that can accomplish a given task with only those materials. This year, the robots were programmed through programs like CAD and Matlab, and so they required  more computer and programming knowledge than ever before. 

“This past year has been very frustrating at times,” Sharp said. “But the team worked very hard and are very deserving of their success.” 

After their presentation, Brandon Wade, the vocal music teacher at PHS, and the Pratt High Singers sang a song for the board members, celebrating an exciting opportunity. The Pratt High School Chamber Singershave been invited to sing at Carnegie Hall in New York City in March of 2022. Wade gave more details to the board, and asked for their approval and essential “blessing” to attend this amazing event. Notably, at the PHS POPS Concert on May 12, 2021, there will be a dessert auction to fundraise for the journey. The concert will be held outside, weather permitting, in Merchant’s Park. 

In regular BOE business meeting, Superintendent TonyHelfrich said he was worried about extra expenses the school has had to absorb. He pointed out that the state gives schools a lot more “red tape,” and so many of the expenses are not really an option. Substitute teacher costs were up throughout the year, since many teachers or staff were quarantined in some form or fashion at some point in time. There were also four long-term subs throughout the district this school year, and those subs do get paid differently due to their longer hours and time.  

Assistant Superintendent David Schmidt gave a shout out  to the Pratt Public Schools Foundation for their generous donation of three tool kits to PHS. These tool kits will make it possible for students at PHS who are looking at taking dual-credit classes at PCC in mechanics to afford the necessary tools to be able to take the credit. Once the year is over, the students can either return the borrowed tool box, or buy them from the school, in which case the PPSF would buy another set.

Schmidt also led the board in a vote to approve May 3 as a professional learning day, with no classes for students.

Helfrich told those in attendance about the recent facility study that was done, and the agreement that some of the bog goals for the district are efficiently using current space, especially that of the ACE building/old high school.

Since the school is in the Green zone of the COVID-19 gating system, some wondered as to why there were still restrictions for the upcoming Athletic and Scholarship banquets. Helfrich responded by saying that decisions regarding those banquets had to be made many months in advance, and at that time, it was still uncertain. For the banquets, only juniors and seniors (that usually qualify) are allowed to attend, and their close family. Usually the banquets extend to all classes and spectators. 

Before the board went into an Executive Session, Bergner said how proud he is of Pratt USD 382. 

“I am so proud of the amazing job students and staff have done to keep this school open,” Bergner said. “Especially when you take a look at other schools around the state and country. We are so close to the finish line, and we must finish strong.”