As the COVID-19 pandemic has brought learning loss for students, Wadena-Deer Creek is beginning to advertise for interventionists to support students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

There would be three positions at the elementary school and two at the middle/high school, as approved by school board members on March 15. Middle/high school principal Tyler Church said prior to the pandemic students in seventh and eighth grade struggled with completing their work and juggling their number of classes. The seventh-eighth grade interventionist will have a math focus.

The middle/high school has a first hour study hall already with the possible addition of another study hall. The interventionists would be available all day and work with students on all subjects. Current teachers have shown interest in these positions and are an option if other teachers are hired. This additional option will help teachers in further managing students’ academics.

In sixth grade, students have the guidance of a homeroom teacher, and when they move up they’re “turned loose” without that specific teacher, as Church said. Students are also adjusting to larger class sizes of about 30 students.

“A lot of our kids aren’t ready for that and we want to make sure by the time they get to ninth grade they understand how school functions and that they need to take care of each class,” Church said.

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The district will look to fund some of these positions with federal coronavirus dollars. WDC is expecting $1.1 million in one round of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds as well as additional ESSER funds from the March relief bill. The funds can cover pandemic related costs from March 2020 to September 2023. While the positions are temporary for the next few years, Church hopes for a permanent position to help seventh and eighth grade students transition.

“This is probably about the only time we could do this with that extra money so I’d like to try it for a couple years and see if it makes a difference,” Church said.

The district will be posting for six positions.

In other action

The board also:

  • Approved the resignation of Ed Sugg (elementary teacher) and the hires of Brayden Vertina (elementary paraprofessional) and Kyle Petermeier (summer rec coordinator).

  • Approved the paying of the districts’ bills totaling $353,888.92. Approved the acceptance of $1,651 in donations.

  • Discussed the staff vaccination rate at about 70%, as Superintendent Lee Westrum said.

  • Agreed to beginning negotiations on the paraprofessional payscale, which will help finalize the payscale for school LPNs and the hiring of a registered nurse at the middle/high school.

  • Approved continuing with the community house project with the Wadena Housing and Redevelopment Authority and Wadena Development Authority. The project is planned for every other year. The HRA and WDA are looking for available lots.

The board also thanked bus drivers for their extra management of students with the COVID-19 precautions as well as always keeping the buses clean.