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What will school be like this year?

By Staff | Jul 19, 2020

The Blue Earth Area School District continues to plan for educating the district’s students this fall.

That was the message superintendent Mandy Fletcher shared with the Blue Earth Area School Board at their meeting on July13.

“It is an ongoing process. There are two areas which present the biggest challenges,” Fletcher shared. “The first challenge is sifting through all of the information being sent our way. The second challenge is trying to prepare for the hybrid model of teaching our students.”

Fletcher explained the difficulties the hybrid model presents.

“We are held to more strict distancing guidelines with the hybrid model. The student to teacher ratio is lower,” Fletcher told the board. “Busing is another difficult issue. There would be only one student per seat (unless they are family members) and only every other seat could be used.”

Fletcher expounded on the busing issues.

“How do you screen kids before they get on the bus, or know they have been screened,” Fletcher asked. “It is a complex process and ends up with buses being only half full.”

Principal Dave Dressler told the board he has been working with teacher volunteers on the instructional part of planning for fall.

“None of these options will be what we know as normal,” he explained. “Even the in-person model contains a number of restrictions from the Minnesota Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control.”

There are many issues to be addressed before school begins this fall, according to Dressler.

“The hybrid model is the most complicated. We need to figure out how to move students throughout the day and figure out how we maintain distance between the students,” Dressler said. “If we distance learn it will be very similar to this past spring but we have learned some things and there will be some adjustments.”

The district is also working on setting up a designated room at each site to put someone who begins exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 after they arrive at school.

“Nurse Ann Croften will be the COVID coordinator,” Fletcher noted.

Fletcher shared the results of a district survey which indicated 85 percent of people who completed the survey indicated they would send their kids back to school this fall if the school reopens. Fifteen percent of the respondents state they will continue with distance learning.

“These numbers are typical of what other districts are seeing when they question their residents,” Fletcher commented. “The reasons for kids continuing to distance learn are because the students are vulnerable or because they excelled at distance learning.”

Fletcher reminded the board the announcement of whether the kids will be back in school, hybrid learning or distance learning is expected to made late in the week of July 27.

Fletcher also informed the board the district would be receiving $210,000 as part of the CARES Act.

“We know $17,000 of the money has to be used for student technology and we will use it to update our Chromebooks,” Fletcher said. “We are studying how the remaining money can be used.”

During the principals’ reports, K-7 assistant principal Conan Shaffer reported 25 students from grades 1-7 had enrolled in summer school.

In other business:

  • The board awarded the softener salt bid to Culligan; the bulk fuel oil bid to Moore’s Ag; the waste removal bid to Waste Management; the snow removal bid for the Winnebago Bus Garage to Ron’s Trenching; and the snow removal bid for the high school site to G & S Drainage.

The diesel bid for the 2020-2021 school year was awarded to Kwik Trip at a net cost of $1.555 per gallon.

Shell Oil was awarded the gasoline bid for the upcoming school year. The net cost for a gallon of gas will be $1.645 per gallon.

The board approved the activity/meal rates for the 2020-21 school year.

Approval was given keeping the board member reimbursement rates the same as the previous year. The rates are $600 annually for the chair person and clerk. The per meeting rate is $50 for up to one half of a day meeting and $150 per full day meeting.

A three-year contract was approved for employee Karen Hougen as an accountant for the district.

Superintendent Fletcher reported a tentative agreement has been reached between the district and the union for non-certified staff.

Teachers Brenda Smith and Andrew Moen presented an annual review of the district’s Q Comp program.