Wadena-Deer Creek is planning a new distance learning program option for the 2021-22 school year that is similar to an online academy—but students remain in the district.

The school board approved the Edmentum Online Learning Platform on April 19. Families who choose the distance learning option would be enrolled in this program. Students will have four core classes and two electives. The program provides state certified teachers for the classes. The district will also have a coordinator overseeing students.

The option of distance learning will likely be required again next school year, and some families have found they enjoy this style, as Superintendent Lee Westrum said. The hope is also that students who attend other online academies will join WDC’s online academy instead, and possibly interest homeschool families.

Students would be considered WDC students and could participate in extracurricular activities.

Within their classes, students could connect with teachers on their subject question. The middle/high school currently uses the Odyssey program for credit recovery with a resource teacher who also pulls in other teachers for specific subject questions. Principal Tyler Church said this method does not work well and the Edmentum program would help students better understand the curriculum and fulfill the standards.

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Learn more about the program:

The distance learning option would be “very different” from this year as students would not be able to switch in and out of in-person and distance learning, as Westrum said. Students would likely be able to switch by the quarter.

For students in-person, they could not join the program when out on quarantine or isolation since the needed commitment is longer. WDC teachers would work with these students on distance learning, and the district will plan for extra compensation during those time periods, as Westrum said.

By offering this program, the district hopes to have in-person learning five days a week for the 2021-22 school year. The required distance learning option run by WDC teachers this year requires two hours of planning time per week, which is why students are released early on Fridays.

The district is still deciding how many student spots they will purchase for next year. Church said the number of students from the high school will depend on the mask mandate in the fall. WDC will pay $3,000 per year for elementary students and $2,500 per year for grades 6-12. The district plans to use federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds for the program.

“It’s kind of a fine line. I want kids in-person, too, I think that’s the best for them so I don’t want to really encourage them to do this but I know we need to have it now,” Westrum said.

In other action

The board also approved:

  • The paying of the districts’ bills totaling $359,934.81. The acceptance of $6,182.14 in donations.

  • The resignations of Dale Salge (Elementary Custodian) and Dana Cantleberry (Public Relations Director and Community Education Coordinator).

  • The hires of Brenda Fischer (Elementary Paraprofessional), Shaun Beck (Elementary Paraprofessional), Lisa Dreyer (Elementary Teacher), Brooke Umland (Elementary Teacher), Megan Heino (Elementary Teacher), Ryan Elfering (Elementary Teacher), Grace Lee (Junior High Volleyball Coach), Alex Brockpahler (Junior High Baseball Coach) and MacKenzie Petermeier (Junior High Softball Coach).

  • A 2020-21 budget revision of a $148,850 general fund deficit from a $501,864 deficit. The change comes because of federal coronavirus funds available to school districts. One of the areas the funds can be applied to is teaching positions to limit the number of students in each class, as Westrum said. The funds then do not have to come from the general budget, business manager Brian Jacobson explained.

  • The capital expenditure requests totaling $147,992 and long-term facilities maintenance requests of $200,740. Some of the items and projects include: two portions of a new roof at the elementary school, a tool kat, new Ford F-250 for the grounds team, a redesign of the elementary gym floor to match the middle/high school and two pianos for the middle/high school practice rooms and one for fifth to 12th grade band director Lisa Weniger’s classroom. There could be future 2021-22 requests.

  • An administrative assistant and bookkeeper position.

  • Extending the milk bid with Cass Clay for an additional year.

  • The 2021-22 school calendar with Good Friday and the Monday following Easter off.

Other board discussions:

  • The board congratulated the WDC Business Professionals of America chapter for their competition successes this year. Twenty students qualified for nationals and two were state champions. The national competition starts on April 26 and is being held virtually.

  • The district will be having summer school this year.

  • The staff development day scheduled for April 30 will follow the regular Friday early dismissal not a late start.

  • The board also had a closed session on negotiation strategies.