homepage logo

USC goes distance learning

Decision made during special meeting Monday

By Kevin Mertens - Staff Writer | Nov 22, 2020

The United South Central School Board met Tuesday, Nov. 17, in a regular meeting for the first time since the Nov. 3 elections and superintendent Keith Fleming thanked the community for voting to approve the operating levy.

“I was thrilled for the vote to renew the operating levy,” Fleming said. “This leaves the district in a real strong financial position for years to come.”

Fleming also expressed his appreciation to school staff members for everything they have had to do to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

“The staff has been great,” Fleming noted. “They have had to rapidly adjust to changes we have had to make in our learning models.”

It was just a day earlier on Monday morning, Nov. 16, the USC School Board held an emergency meeting and voted to transition grades 7-12 to distance learning, a move which had been made in the elementary grades a week earlier.

“In order to be responsible and look out for the safety of our students and staff, I feel we need to go to distance learning,” Fleming stated at the emergency meeting.

The high school grades had been scheduled to go from in-person learning to a hybrid model but recent COVID  cases inside the USC school building prompted the move to distance learning.

“The critical factor is I believe we have a spread of the virus going on in the school,” Fleming shared.

The decision also meant the end of sports and all other extra curricular activities at the school until further notice.

Though the status of the coronavirus was not the most welcome news, the board did receive good news when Machelle Flugum of the public accounting firm of Hill, Larson and Walth, located in Austin, gave a review of the district’s financial audit.

“It was a clean audit, it was a good audit,” Flugum told the board. “As of June 30, of this year, the district has net capital assets of $25,978,068. Your depreciation expense for the fiscal year was $830,249 and total long-term liabilities are $21,327,341.

The board received more potential good news when Michael Hart and Steve Pumper of PMA Securities presented an option for the school to refinance some general obligation bonds.

“Your current interest rate is three percent,” Hart explained. “We estimate your interest rate after refinancing could be 1.69 percent. This would result in an estimated gross savings of $1,075,000 or approximately $105,000 per year.”

The board voted to authorize the execution of a bond purchase agreement with a minimum savings target of $900,000.

Hart reminded the board the savings would not begin immediately.

“There would be no savings in the coming year,” Hart commented.

During the meeting, members also took time to introduce and welcome the new student representative, Lillian Neubauer, to the board. The 16-year old Neubauer was sworn in by board chairman Dale Stevermer.

Moving on to administration reports, high school principal Julie Stauber reported the Homecoming activities went well.

“They were well attended,” Stauber commented. “The response was enthusiastic even if some of the activities had to be done remotely.”

Elementary principal Nick Jurrens shared a flu shot clinic was held on Oct. 21. He also thanked all of the people who helped put together the Veterans Day video.

The board also:

• Approved changing the contract of Title I paraprofessional Lyssa Warmka from four days per week to five days per week.

• Voted to grant a medical leave to bus driver Thomas Neubauer for approximately three months beginning Nov. 9.

• Approved the resignation of Deborah Larson who was a van driver.

• Voted to approve the World’s Best Work Force Plan and Goals.

• Gave approval to the modification to the hybrid learning model to comply with the requirement in Executive Order 20-94 of additional teacher prep time.

• Approved an amendment to the District Safe Learning Plan to allow in-person education services and evaluations during distance learning.