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BEA’s graduation open to the public

It will be indoors June 6 with only restriction must wear a mask

By Kevin Mertens - Staff Writer | May 16, 2021

Members of the Blue Earth Area Journalism Club gave a presentation to the Blue Earth Area School Board last Monday night which included copies of their new school newspaper, The Buccaneer.

“We will be able to hold graduation ceremonies inside this year,” Blue Earth Area superintendent Mandy Fletcher told School Board members at their meeting on May 10. “It will be open to the public with no capacity restrictions. The only requirement will be for everyone in attendance to wear masks.”

Fletcher also discussed other dates and events leading up to the final day of classes for this school year.

“The last student day for kids in grades K-11 is June 4,” she mentioned. “Seniors will have their last day on June 3 and will come in for graduation rehearsal on June 4. Commencement ceremonies will be on June 6, at 2 p.m.”

Fletcher had a number of other items to share with the board.

“Radon testing was completed in the school buildings,” she said. “A total of 206 samples were taken. Two rooms in the middle school complex had to be tested twice but all of the results came out good.”

She also provided a legislative update.

“It is the final week of the 2021 session and it is likely a special session will be needed,” Fletcher noted. “We do not have definitive answers on what things will look like this fall. We do not know if distance learning will be required or optional. It will be very tough for districts our size if distance learning, in the form of an online academy, is required.

We have hope we will not be operating under a Safe Learning Plan.”

Fletcher was asked if there were many students using the online academy option.

“We have a very small number of families utilizing the online academy,” Fletcher explained. “We have been in contact with all of the families and all but one said they would send their kids back to school if the online academy is not an option next year.”

Fletcher also gave an update on future staffing changes.

“We have a large number of incoming kindergarten students next fall,” she commented. “This means we will be adding a fourth section of kindergarten. There are many moving pieces of the puzzle which we are dealing with to make that happen.”

Fletcher also talked about summer school and the credit recovery options for students.

“We have been able to offer credit recovery classes in conjunction with Southern Plains Cooperative,” Fletcher said. “It gives students a chance to earn credits back. Currently, we have been able to offer this for students 16 or older. During the summer we will be offering this program for younger students, ages 14-15. It is for those kids who have failed one or more courses.”

The board also heard from a group of students who have begun publishing a school newspaper.

“It is called The Buccaneer,” senior editor McKenna Dutton explained.

Dutton and the other members of the staff each took turns explaining what their position with the paper was and what article they had written for the first edition.

The students left board members with a copy of their first edition which had been printed earlier in the day and featured articles on the impact of COVID-19 on BEA, current events, climate change and spring sports, in addition to many other stories.

BEA English/language arts teacher Janelle Jacobsen came up with the idea for the newspaper.

“Superintendent Fletcher asked for ideas for special projects as part of L.E.A.P. (Learning Educational Activities Program) and I was interested in doing something with journalism because it is something which I have always been interested in,” Jacobsen explained. “I found some students who were interested and we began meeting over the noon hour. We were also able to have Chuck Hunt from the Faribault County Register come and share his knowledge and experience with us.”

Jacobsen said she hopes The Buccaneer will continue during the next school year.

Conan Shaffer, K-7 assistant principal, was on hand to update the board on student testing.

“We are just finishing the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment tests,” he said. “It has been different this year because we have been working with the online academy students to help them get their tests taken. We chose to do the ACT tests online this year. The students took their test on April 21 and the process went very smoothly.”

In other business:

• A vote was passed to terminate the contract of Autumn Marlatt, a member of the non-certified staff.

• The resignations of paraprofessionals Sam Lee, Erica Sunde-Nowak and Kelli Steier were accepted.

• The resignation of middle school English teacher Hannah Brower was accepted.

• Board members approved two new hires, TJ Schmidtke and Blake Boran, as elementary teachers.