School board approves financials, anticipates reopening strategies for district
Changes and classroom reopening strategies for the 2020-2021 school year topped the agenda for the Rugby Public School Board regular meeting Tuesday morning.
School Superintendent Mike McNeff presented financial and other reports to the board, school staff and parents gathered in the Rugby High School library.
“The next school year is going to look different,” McNeff said. “Our school is going to look different in a sense. Our office is going to look different.”
“There’s always a question about masks or no masks,” McNeff added. “I don’t think the state is going (to mandate) masks.”
“Our big focus is going to be on safety,” McNeff noted. “We’re going to limit passing (the virus) as best we can.”
McNeff said he expected guidelines to be issued by the North Dakota Department of Health Wednesday to answer questions about issues such as passing periods in high school and middle school, lunchroom procedures and school activities.
McNeff also said maintaining social distancing would be a priority. “There’s a concern about the busing routes,” he said. “In our rural routes, on those buses we can spread the kids out but we might face challenges with some of the daycare busing that occurs and some of our city buses that we run in the winter.”
“When I think about this entire plan, there’s probably going to be three scenarios,” McNeff said. “This new normal we come back to where all the kids are onsite, they’re here on the same day, every day, but we’re going to have to prepare for an intermittent hybrid model, where half the kids are (onsite) and half the kids are not. They’re online when they’re not there physically, face to face to keep the (class size) small.”
“Then, of course, the other option would be the full shutdown, remote learning for all,” McNeff added, emphasizing the importance that the district “be prepared” to meet challenges presented by the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic also impacted the 2020-2025 school strategic plan approved by the board. McNeff outlined how the pandemic’s restrictions would impact the implementation of instructional goals in the plan.
The board also approved a financial report for the 2020 fiscal year presented by district Business Manager Dawn Hauck.
Hauck pointed out the deficit spending in the 2020 budget was $62,000, down from an anticipated $150,000. Hauck also noted the district was “on track” to pay off a balloon payment due in the next three years.
McNeff noted the transportation budget would suffer in the coming school year due to a decline in bus service last spring.
The financial report also reflected an increase in mill levies due to the addition of land in the former Wolford School District.
In other business, the board approved the district’s membership in six educational organizations as well as the Rugby Chamber of Commerce.
McNeff reported special education services would be delivered to the district through the Peace Garden Special Education Special Education Unit. The unit also provides psychological counseling services to students.
The board appointed teacher Deb Goven to deliver instructional services to homeless students. The board also appointed Kari Hill to coordinate educational services to English learners in the district.
The board also approved written statements of non-discrimination for students from all backgrounds and abilities.
The board also approved recommendations not to raise hot lunch rates or admission rates charged to the public for school activities.
The board also approved a preliminary school budget for the 2021 fiscal year.
The board approved district federal and nonpublic title applications for instructional programs and a preliminary budget for Title I, IIA and IV programs.
McNeff presented school enrollment projections, which indicated a slight increase over past years. McNeff said he expects total district enrollment to be 588 students, or one more student than last year. The total reflects an increase of 21 students since the 2017-2018 school year.
The board heard from parents Carleen Blessum and Nichole Schneibel about coaching changes for fall volleyball and football. Blessum asked the board to consider making the hiring and firing process for coaches subject to contract.
The board agreed to consider the matter, but several members said they preferred coaches and support staff be subject to at will employment laws instead.
The board voted to designate Merchant’s Bank as its official depository and The Pierce County Tribune as its official newspaper.
The board will next meet at 7 a.m. on Aug. 11.
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