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School Board reviews graduation, re-opening plans

By Staff | May 15, 2020

The Rugby Public School District No. 5 Board of Education reviewed a graduation plan for Rugby High School’s Class of 2020 at its regular May meeting held Tuesday morning.

Rugby Public Schools Superintendent Mike McNeff and Rugby High School Principal Jared Blikre presented the plan, created by an advisory committee consisting of parents, senior class advisers and community stakeholders.

Blikre told the board he would review the information with Rugby High’s seniors Monday morning.

The socially distanced ceremony will take place Sunday, May 24, at Rugby High’s Johnsen Field after a parade down Main Avenue.

Plans outlined by McNeff include assigning graduates odd or even numbers, with each number group meeting at opposite ends of the stadium at 1:15 p.m.

Each graduate’s family would receive six tickets to be given to household members. Family groups would then be seated together, with each group seated six feet apart.

McNeff also suggested hiring a professional photographer for the event to discourage family members from getting too close to the stage area.

Other recommendations for the event include discouraging hugs and physical contact between people not sharing households, and encouraging elderly people and those vulnerable to the novel coronavirus to watch the ceremony online. Attendees will also be encouraged to wear masks.

McNeff said the plan depends on weather conditions.

“(If weather is a problem), we could use the gym,” McNeff said. “The 22nd or 23rd are options if it’s beautiful those days, but I really want to have it the 24th.”

The board also heard an update on Empower, a learning management system to be tested by 20 teachers for the 2020-21 school year.

McNeff also presented updates on distance education and plans to reopen district schools.

“Counseling continues to be a concern,” McNeff said of distance education issues.

McNeff presented restart guidelines, which were written in the form of a questionnaire and checklist. “There are about 68 questions to answer,” McNeff said of the topics relating to health and safety concerns.

“It’s related to Opening Up America Again guidelines, phase 1 through 3,” he noted. “I assume they think phase 1 starts June 1. That’s the day we can bring kids onsite, and it’s a 15 to 1 ratio, currently.”

Access to sites would still be limited after June 1, with the guidelines calling for “closed communal spaces such as gyms and playgrounds,” McNeff said. “That tells me the gym is still closed after June 1st.”

McNeff said services for “high needs” students on individualized educational programs would continue during the summer.

In other business, the board approved a motion to apply for funds from Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief (ESSER), a federal program part of the CARES Act. McNeff said the requested $118,000 would be used to recoup losses from the school lunch program, technology and professional development. McNeff said about $8,000 would go to educational programs at Little Flower Elementary School.

The board also approved motions to hire new teachers Connor Ralph for junior high social studies, Terry Jelsing for high school art and part-time family and consumer science teacher Brittany Lovcik.

The board approved a motion to add family and consumer science classes to Rugby High School’s career and technical education program.

“We’re looking at clothing and textiles, independent living, child development, family living and nutrition and fitness,” Blikre said of the classes in the program.

“We’re definitely excited about the offerings we’re going to have for the kids with that.”

Blikre told the board middle and high school students would finish their e-learning programs this week. “Next week, we’re going to be specifically targeting students who are behind or struggling,” he noted. “That’s going to be instruction via Zoom still, or individual instruction with teachers and para(educators) to catch up some kids.”

Blikre said high school students were allowed to pick up their belongings and turn in school property starting Friday. Middle school students would turn in school items and pick up their property this week.

Blikre said middle schoolers would receive pass/fail grades on their report cards, to be mailed out after next week. High school students would receive traditional letter grades.

Blikre also told the board that driver’s education classes would begin “after Memorial Day,” with classroom instruction online and the behind-the-wheel training “to be decided by the district” per guidelines issued by state education officials.

Ely Elementary Principal Jason Gullickson reported, “Academic programming will continue to the rest of the year. We will send out report cards and academic awards in the coming weeks.”

Gullickson said students would receive pass/fail grades, indicated in the comments section of the report cards. He added the school would distribute personal items to students and collect school property “during the week of May 18.”

“Kindergarten registration is still holding steady at 36,” he added. “There will be some correspondence from our kindergarten teachers to families to keep everybody in the loop and if there are some questions about the upcoming school year, they have a contact person.”

The district is also registering preschoolers for the fall.

Business manager Dawn Hauck presented a report indicating the school had lost less money than last year at this time.

“We were only $41,000 down,” she noted. “Last year, we were about $141,000 down. I’m really excited about that number.”

“The hot lunch fund, that one’s been a struggle,” Hauck said. “We’ve been transferring quite a bit. We transferred $25,000 last month alone.”

Hauck said the loss was due to funds coming from a federal summer lunch program instead of the program that normally funds the meals.

McNeff indicated the school meal pickup/delivery program would not continue after May 21 because staff would not be available. He added the district does not meet a requirement that at least 50 percent of students receive free or reduced-cost lunches. Only 27 percent of students in Rugby schools receive reduced-cost or free lunches.

McNeff also told the board to expect a bill for repairs to a section of the Rugby High School roof. “We’ve had several leaks over the last few months, particularly when snow was melting. Over the top of the band room, that needs full replacement,” he said. “It’s going to be costly, probably 40 to 60 thousand dollars to get that replaced.”

Hauck told the board she has received a large amount of applications for election ballots. She said a drop box is available at the high school for ballot applications, yearbook orders and other forms.

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