Keota Foreign Exchange Students Discuss Experiences With School Board

Casey Jarmes
The News-Review

KEOTA – Foreign exchange students Tymur Khriaschevskyi and Nino Kirtava talked to the Keota School Board about their experiences in Iowa during the April 11 school board meeting. Khriaschevskyi, a fifteen-year-old Ukrainian student, called being a foreign exchange student the best experience he ever had. He talked about his home country Ukraine, the largest country in Europe behind Russia, and noted that its population had fallen from 35 million to 28 million due to a massive refugee crisis resulting from the 2022 Russian invasion. He stated that the war had not affected his family, who live in Western Ukraine, and that they had gotten used to it. Khriaschevskyi brought up his homeland’s wheat exports and massive fields of sunflowers.

Khriaschevskyi said that it was initially hard and confusing to navigate an American school, because in Ukraine, students stay in a classroom and teachers move throughout the day. He stated that he liked the U.S. more and more and that things got easier as time went on and he made new friends. He stated that students and teachers were nice and helped him outside of school. He brought up playing football in the fall, saying it was not easy to learn but was an amazing experience. Khriaschevskyi also said he enjoyed 4H and FFA and that there were not equivalents in Ukraine. He stated that bowling was fun and much easier than football. He stated that he tried golf, but it was confusing and he had to quit.

Khriaschevskyi said he was amazed by the small town community full of people who help each other. He stated that Americans are polite and that he loved the small. He also noted that Americans have large serving sizes.

Kirtava, a senior from Georgia, noted that her country is half the size of Iowa and has a population of 3.7 million. She stated that elective classes don’t exist in Georgia and that extracurriculars are not offered through schools, meaning students have to seek them outside of school. She noted that participating in private sports can be expensive. Kirtava talked about how much she enjoyed being able to do so many things, like act in two plays, perform in speech, and play basketball. She admitted that she too had tried and quit golf.

She stated she had made friends and had fun in Iowa. She noted that Georgian school days are shorter, but don’t have a lunch break, and said her favorite American food was steak. She stated she was surprised that Americans dip cinnamon rolls in chili, leading attendees to briefly debate if that was an Iowa thing or just a Keota thing. She noted that Iowa has extreme hot and cold weather, compared to the warmer Georgian mountains where she grew up.

Kirtava stated she was surprised by how flat Iowa was, finally being able to see the horizon, and that she loved Iowa sunsets. She explained that most Georgians are multi-lingual and learn English in school. She noted that she had also learned English from movies. She stated that Russian is also commonly taught in Georgian schools, but that some schools were replacing it with German. Khriaschevskyi chimed in to say he spoke Ukranian, Russian, Polish, German and English.

Kirtava stated that she missed Georgian food and her friends back home and was excited to return and graduate. However, she intends to return to Iowa next year and study economics and political science at Grinnell, because she has fallen in love with Iowa. She said that this was the most interesting year of her life and that she never thought she would travel 6,000 miles from home.

Keota kindergarten teachers also attended the April meeting to discuss starting a Development Kindergarten program. The program would give an extra gap year to students with late birthdays or students showing academic or social discrepancies who can’t handle the kindergarten curriculum, so they may mature before entering kindergarten. The teachers stated that kindergarten had become more rigorous in recent years, featuring more listening, less hands on work, less play, and more academics. Elementary and Middle School Principal Seth Milledge stated that they want to make sure kids are successful and he would be comfortable with the program, depending on how many parents were interested. He noted that the program would not add staff and instead, there would be one normal kindergarten class and one developmental kindergarten class.

Counselor Colleen Donald talked to the board about the District Career and Academic Program, which is designed to help kids be future-focused. She stated that the program had expanded exploratories and created a four-year plan, where eighth graders will know what classes to take. She stated she plans to invite colleges to the campus and continue offering online instruction.

Board member Jim Tinnes showed the board an advertisement from Barracuda Intruder Defense System for door bars that can be used in a school shooting. Tinnes stated that gunmen want easy targets and the locks could provide valuable seconds. He stated he did not want the district to get comfortable and that it should always be improving safety, and that while he hoped to never need the door bars, it was better to have them. Milledge stated he would look into getting a quote.

Superintendent and High School Principal Lisa Brennaman brought up the AEA reform bill, noting that because it was passed so late in the year, it is hard to evaluate what is the best way for the district to use its money going forward. She suggested continuing to use AEA services for the upcoming school year and then evaluating other options next year. Milledge noted there may be higher costs this year due to the economy of scale being taken away.

Brennaman brought up issues with the enforcement of the district’s phone policy. Under the current policy, phones can be brought to school but are only allowed to be used during lunch. After the second offense, parents must come to the school to get phones back. After the third, students are required to turn their phones in to the office in the morning. Brennaman stated that some students were going to the bathroom during class and not coming back to use their phones. She noted that one student had brought three phones to school. Brennaman noted that most teachers were enforcing the ban, but some were not.

Tinnes brought up the idea of advertising the school’s four-day week to bring in new students. He stated he had talked to the Ottumwa 8 Theatre, who charge $1,009 to run a 30-second ad before movies for one year. Tinnes also suggested looking into advertising with the movie theater in Washington. He noted that, if the school attracts at least one student, it will profit $5,000.




The News-Review

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