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BEA headed to all kids in classrooms

By Staff | Sep 20, 2020

The news many Blue Earth Area High School students have been waiting for was delivered by superintendent Mandy Fletcher at the BEA School Board meeting on Monday evening, Sept. 14.

“Given the latest information the Incident Command Team has received, we (Incident Command Team) are all in agreement BEA can open to all in-person learning for grades K-12 beginning Sept. 21,” Fletcher stated. “We will begin getting information out to the students and parents tomorrow.”

Because of an earlier higher county case rate for COVID-19, students in grades 8-12 had begun the year in the hybrid scenario on Sept. 8, while the younger students in grades K-7 began school with in-person learning on Sept. 10.

“Last Thursday the Minnesota Department of Health released their 14-day county case rate data,” Fletcher explained. “The data showed Faribault County had a rate of 13.67 which supported our decision to have the 8-12 kids in hybrid through the current week.”

Fletcher then shared the process which was used in making the decision to bring the older kids back to school for in-person learning.

“Keep in mind there is a little bit of a lag time with the release of case rate data information. The Incident Command Team met last Friday, Sept. 11, and discussed more recent data,” Fletcher commented. “Since the time period when the last data was released, the number of cases in Faribault County has gone down significantly. Because of this the county is predicted to be under 10 for our county case rate for the next two reporting periods, thus the decision to bring all the students back to school.”

Fletcher also reported on how things had gone during the first week of school.

“The kids have been great. They have been wonderful with mask compliance and have been very respectful. They are happy to be back in the building,” Fletcher shared. “We have had some issues with the technology we use, which we expected. Jen Berkner and her team have been great at troubleshooting any problems we have had and things should operate smoother going forward.”

Fletcher continued her report by updating the board on progress being made by the scheduling committee.

“If you recall, last spring the board approved to begin the transition from a four-block day to a seven-period day,” Fletcher said. “We have had our first meeting and have been discussing a timeline for planning. We want to have things in place with the goal to have things wrapped up by December with finalizing the schedule. Doing this will allow us to be prepared for registration and be ready to roll out the new schedule at the beginning of 2021.”

Next, Fletcher explained some changes in the lunch program at the schools.

“If you recall, last spring when the district needed to transition to distance learning, we were able to get a federal waiver approved for the summer food program which allowed us to provide breakfasts and lunches at no charge to students at BEA. That waiver was extended throughout the summer to the end of August,” Fletcher explained. “We were shocked when the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) communicated to us the program has been continued.

“So, starting today (Sept. 14), all BEA students in K-12 as well as our preschool students and Little Giants kids are offered one free breakfast and one free lunch daily. We know at some point this program is going to end, either by Dec. 31 of this year or when the federal dollars run out, whichever comes first. We are still encouraging our families to continue with their applications for meal benefits so once this program ends the families still receive the assistance they need without any gap in coverage.”

The last item of discussion on Fletcher’s list was the operating levy.

“I am happy to report we are ready to go live with our information sharing this week. Our website will go live this Wednesday, Sept.16, and early voting begins Friday, Sept. 18,” Fletcher told the board. “We have press releases, mailings to our families and a social media campaign all ready to go. The website will have information explaining the needs of the district, what we have been doing so far and what our goals are for the future. The website address is beaexcellence.org.

The board then approved certifying the proposed property tax levy 2020 payable 2021 for the maximum amount.

“Typically, this will change several times which is why we do not recommend doing a dollar amount but instead do the maximum amount,” Fletcher explained. “The final figure will be set at our Truth in Taxation meeting which will be held on Dec. 14, at 6 p.m.”

Dave Dressler was on hand to give a principal’s report.

“We have made some really big changes in how we do things in the buildings. It is hard to find an area that has not been affected by change,” Dressler noted. “After day one the biggest change we had to make was where we were serving lunch from for the elementary kids because we found it just took too long to move machines. When that was our biggest concern after day one we were feeling pretty good.”

Activities director Rob Norman was also at the meeting to give a report.

“Seventh and eighth grade football and volleyball have started and are more of an intermural sport this year,” Norman said. “The high school football and volleyball teams began practice today. Both teams are allowed to have 12 practices over a three-week period.”

Norman also shared some news from the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) regarding membership fees.

“We already knew our fees had increased to about $3,900 for this year. We were a little surprised when the MSHSL informed us in August the school was going to be charged two additional $3,500 installment fees for membership in the MSHSL. They are charging schools by the class they belong to in basketball,” Norman said. “The MSHSL is having financial difficulties due to the loss of income from tournaments which were canceled because of the coronavirus and this is how they are trying to replace lost revenue.”

“We do not have much choice but to pay the fees,” he explained. “If we do not pay the fees we cannot participate against other teams who are members, so we are kind of stuck.”

The board also voted to:

Approve the resignations of paraprofessionals Leann Hendrickson, Vonda Schlie, Daja Watson and Megan Asmus. Asmus now works for Taher, the school district’s meal provider.

Approve the hiring of paraprofessionals Scott Skogen, Susan Farrow, Autumn Marlatt, Samuel Lee and Arika Ziegler. The board also gave approval for hiring long-term sub Katie Kaluza; K-5 art teacher Kiesha Howard; and special education teacher LeAnn Boettcher.

Grant leave requests for Sharla Goodrich through Nov. 10, 2020 and to Konny Wolf through Jan. 4, 2021.

Approve the list of fall coaches for 2020.