The school board met through Zoom on April 20.
The school board met through Zoom on April 20.

Through a public Zoom meeting, school board members starred on Hollywood Squares with their screens lighting up as questions, discussions and votes were tallied on distance learning updates and the school’s projected 2020-2021 budget.

In the distance learning update, Superintendent Lee Westrum noted the hard work of food service staff members, bus drivers, paraprofessionals and nurses in making and delivering meals as well as operating child care. The meal delivery was up to 737 breakfasts and lunches on April 20 along with a “pretty steady” 15-20 children at Kids Krew and 8-15 children at Little Kids Club, according to Westrum.

Elementary school principal Louis Rutten and middle/high school principal Tyler Church shared the system of sorting and delivering homework packets with thankfulness for the many people involved. Rutten highlighted the interactions of students, teachers and parents on the online platform Seesaw which increased from approximately 5,000 posts and comments in February to 23,300 in April. Church said Google Classroom is going well with calls to parents on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for students who need to complete more assignments. Both principals said student contact is highly important as well as simply trying to complete assignments rather than focusing on grades.

Westrum said the schools are in a groove with distance learning and are continuing to address technology barriers, including by ordering 35 more hotspots. School board members Ryan Damlo, Dan Lawson and Vince Hinojos asked about the possibility of returning to school, when a graduation ceremony might be held and if spring sports were out of the question. With each of these, Westrum, Church and activities director and dean of students Norm Gallant said discussions and plans are occurring but they are waiting to hear from Gov. Tim Walz on whether schools will remain closed.

The board also discussed a possible billboard for the seniors on Hwy 10 in May and June. Church shared a personalized sign idea that seniors will receive.

In his business manager report, Brian Jacobson explained how the school’s auditors said the money fundraised for trips like students scheduled to travel to France or the band trip will stay in the student activities account rather than being credited to students. If students made a payment for the trip, those funds would be returned to the student. School board member Kent Schmidt wondered if the money could be saved for a sibling in the program. Jacobson also noted that the senior class has until Sept. 1 to use their funds for the senior trip.

Westrum and Jacobson highlighted aspects of the 2020-21 budget proposal. One of the differences from the 2019-2020 budget year is a $250,000 revenue decrease in the compensatory aid due to a lower number of families who filled out the free and reduced lunch form in fall 2019, according to Westrum. Another difference is a $548,122 deficit in the general fund. The proposed 2021 budget and adopted 2020 budget difference is approximately a $130,000 decrease in revenue, according to Jacobson. Overall, Westrum and Jacobson said the estimated budget is planned conservatively due to the slowed down economy and unemployment rates from the coronavirus. Westrum noted the state appropriated funds for 2020-2021 are not in question as they were set last year but that the Minnesota School Board Association said following budgets may be impacted.

In other actions, the board approved:

  • The resignations and retirements of Connie Mosher (middle school SPED teacher), Brittani Schwartz (head dance coach), Mike Horan (bus driver) and Dewey Imdieke (custodian).

  • The hiring of Sydney Schissel (elementary teacher), Kylie Quincer (elementary teacher) and Rebecca Frosig (middle school SPED teacher).

  • The lane changes of Marc Reynolds and Chelsa Golberg.

  • The paying of the district’s bills totaling $382,239.72 and bond construction bills of $101,428.74. The district also received donations totaling $15,237.90.

  • The bid packet for the Community House built by the Wadena-Deer Creek High School construction class. The minimum bid is $55,500. Sealed bids are due by 2 p.m. on Monday, May 18 through mailing or dropping them off at the district office.