The school board discussed the budget, kindergarten classes and summer training for athletes to prepare for the fall, whether classes will be in-person, through distance learning or having students come every other day.
In reviewing the 2020-21 budget, Superintendent Lee Westrum said the general fund deficit is $501,864. The budget continues to be a conservative estimate based on the enrollment number of 1,053. Across the nation, schools are concerned about how enrollment numbers might change in the fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Westrum and business manager Brian Jacobson. The budget had to be approved for the school to pay bills in the new fiscal year.
Westrum also noted the school received $276,000 from the federal relief bill and the Governor's Emergency Education Relief program.
Westrum shared likely increases in the school’s property and liability insurance due to the estimated replacement values. The current replacement values are set at $26 million for the elementary school and $40 million for the middle/high school. The Deer Creek school building will likely see a decrease in its property evaluation from $5.5 million to $1.5 million. The worker’s compensation insurance is expected to decrease by $5,000 due to employee’s “excellent” safety, according to Westrum.
As the school continues to prepare for the fall, Westrum and elementary principal Louis Rutten discussed staffing changes, including the possible addition of a fifth kindergarten class, teachers moving to different grade levels and the training of the Title I team. There are currently 70 students registered for kindergarten with 15 more students expected, according to Rutten. While the board members did not make a recommendation to add a class, they were interested in hosting a kindergarten round-up day and posting the job opening for a kindergarten teacher to be prepared. The board will revisit the number of students registered at their next meeting on July 6.
While searching for a place to hold trials and follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, the Wadena County District Court considered renting Memorial Auditorium from July to the first of September for trials. Westrum said the upstairs legion room could be for the jury and the conference room could be the judges chambers. The court would also have two armed peace officers and two court managers present. The school board questioned the safety of the children attending Little Kids Krew at the elementary school, including the auditorium’s close location to the playground and the cafeteria as well as the ability to have the doors between the auditorium and cafeteria hallway prohibited as a fire exit. With the “worrisome” factors, the board members declined the request for renting Memorial Auditorium.
On an exciting note, activities director and dean of students Norm Gallant outlined the plans for athletes to start strengthening and conditioning on June 15. All training will be done outside at the football field and in small groups, or pods, of nine athletes. Once the students are assigned to a pod, they will remain with the pod for the entire training program, according to the protocol plan. Athletes will be checked in, have their temperature taken, screened with a health questionnaire and asked to put on hand sanitizer before entering the field, according to Gallant. The program will be from 7-8 a.m. and 8-9 a.m. based on previous years’ attendance.
“We want to get the kids back going. We have really had some great things going here in the last two years in particular with kids being super dedicated and working hard and just being a community and this is a step towards getting that going again,” Gallant said.
In other actions, the board approved:
The resignations/retirements of Sharon Folkestad (Elementary Paraprofessional), Samantha Samsa (Title I Teacher), Cindi Koll (CEO Facilitator) and Austin Hendershot (Summer Rec Director).
The paying of the district’s bills totaling $262,943.98. Donations to the district were also received totaling $4,074.
For Westrum to negotiate a sale for the construction house since no further bids were received by June 8.