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BEA to receive more Esser funds

District to get $690,000 in Round 2, more to come in Round 3

By Kevin Mertens - Staff Writer | Apr 18, 2021

The Blue Earth Area School District used their first round of Esser Funds to help pay for a new school bus.

The Blue Earth Area School Board learned at their meeting on April 12 the district will be receiving $690,000 in the next round of Esser Funds. These are funds which were established as part of the Education Stabilization Fund in the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act.

“These are known as Esser Two Funds,” superintendent Mandy Fletcher explained. “Earlier we received $180,000 in the original Esser Fund.”

Fletcher reminded the board there were usually restrictions on how the funds could be utilized.

“We used the first round of Esser Funds for technology purchases, cleaning supplies related to COVID-19 and to help pay for a new school bus,” Fletcher said. “We have not yet learned what expenses are acceptable with these funds.”

The board also learned there could be more dollars coming to the district.

“We have been told there will likely be an Esser Three Fund,” Fletcher informed the board. “We have no idea how much that payment would be. We do know the money would have to be spent by September of 2024.”

Fletcher continued on the subject of finances with an update of the progress of the education bill at the State Capitol.

“The House and Senate are both working on bills,” Fletcher noted. “It will probably be the end of June before everything is done.”

In other financial matters, the board approved a bid in the amount of $54,900 from Nieman Roofing for work repairs to be made on the roof of the Commons Area at the high school.

“This is another step in the process,” Fletcher commented. “Next year the work will shift to the roof over the Performing Arts Center and the music classrooms.”

Fletcher then moved on to tell the board there will be a Senior Awards and Scholarship program on May 14, at 7 p.m.

“During the spring we would normally have banquets to honor students for their academic, athletic, and fine arts achievements. In addition, clubs such as FFA would also hold their own banquets,” Fletcher explained. “The district has been working with Kiwanis and Lions Club to make the best possible experience for our seniors this year, despite current restrictions.”

She then shared the plan with board members.

“Due to limited capacity, BEA, Kiwanis, First Bank Blue Earth and Lions Clubs have decided to combine all of our spring banquets into one program for our seniors,” Fletcher said. “By doing this, we can offer students more tickets to distribute to their families.”

She told board members the district will also be holding an awards ceremony for students in grades 8-11 at a later date, during the school day, for each grade so those students can also be recognized for their accomplishments.

“We certainly hope next year finds us back to our typical banquets which we are accustomed to,” Fletcher remarked. “However, we also hope that changing things up a bit for this year will give our seniors an equally memorable experience.”

Fletcher ended her report by noting there were currently two active cases of COVID-19 in the student body with 15 kids quarantined and that no staff members were currently positive or quarantined.

“I am extremely pleased to have very minimal problems even though everyone is in-person learning,” she commented.

The board then proceeded to approve a number of personnel changes.

A contract was approved for Allison Schmidt as the director of Curriculum and Instruction.

The following were approved as new hires: Kristie Rolling, special education teacher; Kali Erichsrud, elementary education teacher; Kelsey Zbaracki, instrumental music teacher; Megan Sukalski, elementary education teacher; Cody Sukalski, physical education/health teacher; Mathias Sturtz, TOSA/dean of students.

The board also voted to extend the leave of absence for elementary teacher Andrew Moen to June 4.

Resignations were approved for para-professional Jennifer Unger effective March 26 and for special education teacher Jacob Brower, effective June 8.

The board also approved the retirement of Mike Marks, effective June 10.

“I just want to say thank you to Mike who has been a custodian at the high school for years,” Fletcher said. “He has done a wonderful job.”

In other business:

• The board approved the list of coaches for the spring sports season.

• A motion was passed to enter into negotiations with the Blue Earth Area Education Association.