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School board reviews budget, health matters

By Sue Sitter - | Sep 26, 2020

The Rugby Public School board reviewed the school district’s 2021 budget and received student and staff health updates at its regular meeting held Sept. 8 in the Rugby High School library.

School Superintendent Mike McNeff told the board the district had put their health and safety plan in effect due to positive COVID-19 tests or close contacts with individuals testing positive among five staff members and 15 students. McNeff said he and Lake Region District Health Unit Nurse Samantha Wentz were implementing contact tracing with affected individuals in the schools.

McNeff also reported the number of spectators at extra-curricular events would be limited to immediate family only.

McNeff updated the board on the progress of the schools’ distance learning program, noting several technology issues have cropped up since the school year began. He reported the district had received 1,000 more internet protocol addresses to help with the volume of users streaming lessons online. However, the district also needed a number of switches replaced, valued at $70,000 in total. McNeff noted the Bank of North Dakota had access to $30 million in federal CARES Act funds for schools. He added he served on a committee to determine how the funds would be dispersed.

Rugby Public School District Business Manager Dawn Hauck reviewed financial reports with the board. Hauck reported state aid revenues had increased due to the district’s absorption of the Wolford Public School District.

Hauck also informed the board that the United States Department of Agriculture’s free school breakfast and lunch program had been extended until Dec. 31, or until funds ran out, allowing all K-12 students in the district to receive free meals regardless of family income. The district will still encourage families to apply for the free and reduced meal program taking effect in January.

McNeff presented the budget for the 2021 fiscal year. The budget takes into account an enrollment increase of approximately 13 students from last year. State aid payments to the district for the year will amount to $10,036 per student. The district’s absorption of Wolford Public School District students and land placed Rugby public schools on a transition minimum payment for state funding purposes, according to meeting reports.

Reports from McNeff also indicated taxable value “has been affected du to the addition of land from the Wolford School District.” McNeff said the district anticipates levies of 82 mills for the district’s general fund. The amount includes a required 60 mills, plus 10 mills in discretionary funds and 12 in miscellaneous funds.

The reported budget also includes “a three mill special reserve levy, a five mill building fund levy, plus 0.25 mills for special assessments and 21 mills for the sinking and interest levy.”

Ely Elementary School Principal Jason Gullickson reported 319 students were enrolled at the school, with 14 attending the school’s virtual academy. Gullickson said students were using the green area near the school’s soon-to-be closed-off section of Third Avenue Southwest for physical education classes. Students and staff at Ely were practicing social distancing and hand washing procedures as well, according to Gullickson.

Gullickson said gates had been installed to mark the section of street to be closed off from public access once alley re-routing is completed.

Gullickson and Rugby High School Principal Jared Blikre reported MAP assessment testing was underway at their schools.

Blikre reported homecoming activities at Rugby High had been limited to a coronation, parade and football game. He said the school’s traditional bonfire and powder puff football game had been canceled as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19. Blikre placed the number of grades 7-12 students at 281, with 11 enrolled in the school’s virtual academy.

In other business, the board approved August bills and financials. The board also made plans to assemble a committee to review and make changes to several school policies in accordance with North Dakota School Boards Association recommendations. Changes will go before the board for approval at a future meeting.

The school board will next meet Tuesday, Oct. 13, at 7 a.m.

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