Jill Harskamp presents CAPS to school district

Sioux Center School District instructional coach Jill Harskamp informed the board of education in April about plans to start a Center for Advanced Professional Studies program for high school juniors and seniors.

SIOUX CENTER—The Sioux Center School Board of Education heard during its April 5 meeting about the latest opportunity open to high school juniors and seniors: A Center for Advanced Professional Studies program.

The Sioux Center School District is one of three N’West Iowa community school districts partnering together under Siouxland CAPS. The other districts are MOC-Floyd Valley and Sheldon.

Sioux Center district instructional coach Jill Harskamp will be the program adviser once it begins this fall.

Worth two elective credits, CAPS time uses the last two periods of the day and meets every school day. Harskamp anticipates six-eight students to participate this first semester.

Interstates will provide a meeting space for CAPS.

Harskamp described CAPS as a nontraditional approach to learning that focuses on giving students real working experience. It’s another opportunity for local businesses to partner with students exploring different careers.

“Students will get out of CAPS what they put into it,” she said. “Students will be drivers of their own learning and experience.”

The goal is to have students become servant-leaders, effective communicators, innovators, budding professionals and to have found a purpose.

Students in CAPS will have the chance to do extended job shadows and work on projects given by local businesses. By getting a variety of businesses on board, students can better explore what careers they think they want to do.

It’s a very individualized approach to career exploration, she said. Individuals will go on job shadows, but if several students are interested in the same kinds of things, they might partner together to complete some projects.

“On one day we may head to Orange City for some leadership training we’ll do with the whole Siouxland CAPS network or on another day they might work with their group who is working on a project with a client,” Harskamp said.

Harskamp cited the example of CAPS students at Cedar Falls, where she recently attended some training. Students there have put together special events for local businesses, made TikTok videos to help advertise and created several streetlight banner designs for the city as part of their CAPS work.

“We’ll tap into local business people, city officials who might be able to share stories of what it’s like to be out in the business world or what it looks like to write a professional e-mail or what they’re looking for in a job interview,” she said. “I’ll do none of the instructing; I’ll be more of a facilitator. The instruction will come through the students’ experiences and our partners.”

Refinancing considered

The school board also heard about the possibility of refinancing two general obligation bonds to save the district money in the long term.

Matt Gillespie with Piper Sandler gave the presentation during the board’s April 5 meeting.

The first bond was issued in 2013 for the fourth-grade wing addition at Kinsey. It has 12 years of payments remaining with its interest rate is set at 3 percent for fiscal year 2022 and will rise to 4 percent in its final year of repayment.

Similarly, the second bond was issued in 2014 for the construction of the early childhood center and has 13 years reaming. It has a 3-percent interest rate for fiscal year 2022 and will rise to 3.75 percent in its final year of repayment.

What interest rates will look like when the bonds can be refinanced isn’t known, but Gillespie offered a plausible scenario to the board.

Talking about the first bond issuance, he said, “These interest rates are just a ballpark figure, looking at an average of 1.1 percent. This would basically be for 12 years maturity. You might end up with something slightly higher than 1.1, but it should be in that range. The net effect would be that the district could save about $816,000 interest if you were to refinance that debt.”

The second bond issuance would save the school district nearly $1 million with that new interest rate.

Bond payments in the next five years would likely remain the same under that scenario to try to pay them off sooner.