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BEA continues to develop a Safe Learning Plan

By Staff | Aug 16, 2020

Back to School time has always been a special time for kids, parents and everyone else who remembers the time when they were young and getting excited about heading back to school and seeing friends and having fun. This year is going to be a bit different no matter what happens, and the kids and the teachers will have some new protocols to follow. It may not be exactly the same as these pictures from years past first days of school show. Register file photos

“Our focus in developing the Blue Earth Area Safe Learning Plan has been to provide a safe environment for our staff and students, to provide the highest quality instruction possible and to allow the district to move fluidly from one plan to another,” BEA superintendent Mandy Fletcher told the BEA School Board at their regular meeting Monday night, Aug. 10.

The Safe Learning Plan had been presented to the board during a work session which was held the previous week. Various department heads informed board members how operations would proceed under each of the three scenarios for the reopening of schools this fall. Those scenarios are in-person learning, hybrid learning and distance learning.

“We will try and get the plan out to the public tomorrow (Aug. 11) so people can begin looking at it,” Fletcher said. “Then, on Aug. 18, we will hold two virtual question and answer sessions where members of the community can participate and ask questions. The principals, school nurse and I will be online to address any concerns.”

The question and answer sessions are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., according to Fletcher.

A special board meeting will then be held at 6 p.m. on Aug. 24, to determine the scenario for reopening school this fall.

“At the current time the COVID rates in our county are looking favorable for being able to open with in-person learning,” Fletcher remarked. “The Aug. 24 date will allow us to base our decision on the most recent county COVID-19 data and still make the decision two weeks before the first day of school.”

During the public comment portion of the meeting, board chair Susan Benz read a letter from the BEA Education Association which raised some questions about an in-person reopening. Much of the concern focused on whether proper social distancing would be able to be maintained with the number of kids in some of the classes and the size of the classrooms.

“We continue to have conversations with staff to work on concerns so we can make the return to school as safe as possible,” Fletcher commented.

During her superintendent’s report Fletcher discussed the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act with the board.

“I was grateful to the Faribault County Commissioners for the opportunity they gave me to speak at their meeting,” Fletcher shared. “I was able to tell them of the expenses and needs the school district has had to deal with.”

Fletcher also reminded the board of the money available through the Geer and Esser funds.

“We received about $17,000 from the Geer Fund which we used to update some of our Chromebooks,” Fletcher explained. “A portion of the funds, which totaled $214,000, will go to Genesis Classical Academy.”

Fletcher also talked about superintendent goals for the upcoming year.

“The first goal will be to provide leadership for social, emotional learning for implementation and professional development of programs and strategies, for both students and staff,” she noted. “Number two will be to provide clear communication for district families and communities to keep members engaged and informed.”

The principals were next to speak.

“BEA was fortunate to be accepted into the AmeriCorps Reading and Math Corps program,” principal David Dressler told the board. “This means we can have two full-time math tutors for grades K-3 and two full-time math tutors for grades 4-7 to work with our students.”

There was also some news regarding ACT testing from K-7 assistant principal Conan Shaffer.

“We have set Oct. 7 as the make-up date for the spring ACT test which had to be cancelled,” Shaffer said.

In other business:

The board unanimously voted to approve contracts for non-certified staff and for bus drivers. Both contracts are for 2020-2022.

BEA’s annual contract with South Central Service Cooperative was renewed for the sum of $1,955.

The retirement of Cara Sunken from the high school food service was approved.

The board voted to accept the resignation of elementary art teacher Erin Mikels. Mikels, who resides in Albert Lea, has taken a job in the Albert Lea school district, according to Fletcher.