School board passes preliminary levy at 3% increase over 2022
An increasing enrollment is helping keep that levy down.
WADENA — The Wadena-Deer Creek School Board passed a preliminary 2023 tax levy at just under $2.19 million, which shows a 3% increase over the current year.
The increase was actually a drop from 3.98% as was earlier forecasted. The decrease could be attributed to a forecasted increase in enrollment at the school district, according to Superintendent Lee Westrum.
The school district is benefitting from an increase in enrollment this year. It was estimated to start out at 1,050 but there was last recorded 1,068 students in the district, according to a report from Westrum. That’s up from 1,019 in May 2022.
The certified levy amount will be approved following the Truth in Taxation hearing set for Dec. 19, 2022, where the public has an opportunity again to comment on the tax.
E-learning plan approved
The school board briefly discussed and approved a plan to continue to use eLearning days on a case-by-case basis. They reviewed a parent survey, which showed about two-thirds of parents in favor of the option for inclement weather days.
In the event of a school closure due to inclement weather, expectations for all WDC students may continue through an eLearning day. This day refers to a school day where, instead of coming to a school, teachers and students communicate online or set up prior learning expectations, and students continue their learning from home. On an eLearning day, teachers will share assignments and hold office hours in which they are available to provide learning support to students. An eLearning day counts as a student contact day.
The district used all five of their eLearning days last year due to the intense winter weather events. Middle/High school principal Tyler Church was hopeful they would not have five such days again in one year.
Westrum noted that an eLearning day is no replacement for an in-class day.
"These certainly are not equal to a day in school. But it does preserve the school calendar," Westrum said. Preserving the school calendar is also something of chief importance to residents in the district in order to avoid classes continuing on into June, Westrum added.
An eLearning day is not a full day for students but they are expected to spend 2-3 hours of active learning and complete their assignments within one week of the eLearning day. Teaching staff must be available to assist throughout the school day. Preschoolers are not required to complete activities on an eLearning day.
School board members had several questions about the plan, which debuted last year. There was concern that all students still have access to hotspots should they not have internet access. That is an option available to students. Another concern was that some students do not complete the assignments. It was noted that the ones who do not complete the work online are typically the ones that do not complete the work in the classroom either.
A survey showed that 58% of participants wanted to see eLearning return; 27% did not; and the rest did not care either way. Westrum felt that the 2-1 ratio in favor was a solid figure to go by in moving ahead with a plan.
Other keys points of the plan:
● Teachers must be accessible both online and by telephone during normal school hours on an e-learning day to assist students and parents.
● Parents, students and staff will be notified at least two hours prior to the normal school start time that students need to follow the e-learning day plan for that day.
● Accommodations for students without sufficient access to the internet, hardware or software in their homes. (School administration, teachers, and other staff continually work with families to ensure equitable access to online learning resources including distributing “hot spots” or alternative resources if possible.)
One thing working against eLearning is that the district is being pushed to make it harder for people to hack into their system. By beefing up the type of authorizations it also can make it harder for students to access the programs they need.
In other actions, the board approved hiring the following positions:
- Doug Dutke, Communications Assistant; Naomi Hess, elementary paraprofessional; Jil Fiemeyer, head girls tennis coach.
- The board plans to have a board work session to go over facility upgrade plans at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 5.
- The board plans to canvass election results at noon on Wednesday, Nov. 16.