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School board reviews winter sports schedule, 2021 calendar

By Sue Sitter - | Dec 19, 2020

The Rugby Public School Board heard updates on a plan by the North Dakota High School Activities Association to resume the winter sports season at their regular meeting Dec. 8 in the Rugby High School library.

The suspension on winter sports placed by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum in November expired Monday, Dec. 14.

Rugby High School Athletic Director Scott Grochow outlined recommendations by the NDHSAA, which included limiting spectator crowd sizes to 50 home fans only. The guidelines allow for participants to receive two tickets each for parents, siblings or grandparents only. In events where three squads participate, only varsity players will receive two tickets each; JV and c-squad players will receive one ticket each. Junior high players will receive two tickets each, while visiting teams will receive four tickets for administrators.

The board approved a motion to adopt the NDHSAA guidelines for winter sports in Rugby Public Schools.

The board also heard updates from Ely Elementary Principal Jason Gullickson, Rugby High Principal Jared Blikre and Rugby Public Schools Superintendent Mike McNeff.

McNeff reviewed the district’s 2020-21 school year calendar with the board. He recommended continuing the current four-day, in-person instruction schedule with one day devoted to virtual learning until the end of March 2021. McNeff said teachers would be required to have curriculum ready for “both in-person and online students each day,” according to meeting documents.

The board expressed concern for some students enrolled in the district’s virtual learning academy, who, according to meeting documents “are not doing well.” The district recommended these students return to in-person learning to prevent them from falling behind.

The board voted to re-evaluate the calendar in January, taking into account any effect the holidays may have had on the spread of COVID-19 cases in the schools. The board decided to discuss the calendar again at their regular February meeting.

Gullickson said Ely Elementary School’s Lego League has been busy preparing for competition in January. The twelve league participants meet once a week with their coach, Andee Mattson. Gullickson noted Ely’s fifth graders collected 900 pounds of shelf-stable food in a food drive held in November. Their donation went to the Pierce County Food Bank.

Teacher evaluations for the seven Ely teachers who had served three or fewer years with the district took place through Dec. 15. Thirteen teachers at Rugby High School serving fewer than three years were also evaluated during that time period.

Blikre told the board the first semester of instruction at Rugby High and Middle Schools would end Jan. 15, with no semester testing time. Blikre added the number of COVID-positive students at Rugby High had decreased to 13. “The numbers are getting much better,” meeting documents stated.

In other business, McNeff reported zero per-pupil state aid increases in the North Dakota biennial budget released by Gov. Burgum for schools for fiscal years 2022 and 2023. The district received CARES Act payments of $158,000 from Ed Corps funding, $178,000 from the federal Resiliency Grant and $115,000 from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) program.

McNeff said much of the grant money would be used to upgrade technology systems for distance education students. He also told the board federal legislators are discussing another relief bill for education.

The board approved agendas, financials and the final audit report for fiscal year 2020. A student activity fund with a negative balance and questions about an employee hire date were two issues receiving attention in the audit.

Board members were invited to research presentations by the Teacher Leader Academy Dec. 16. Also on that date, board members Kris Blessum and Brenda Heilman held a school policy review meeting. Information from that meeting will be presented to the board’s regular January meeting.

The board also heard new information on using the BINAX test for COVID-19. The test, produced by Abbot Laboratories gives fast results and can be self-administered. Staff at both schools will have access to the testing on a voluntary basis, McNeff told the board. The tests should be available in about two weeks.

McNeff also presented a survey to gauge school staff interest in vaccines for COVID. McNeff said Phase 1b of a state health department vaccination schedule includes school personnel. The Lake Region District Health Unit’s Pierce County office requested the survey so they could have enough vaccine on hand for the schools, McNeff added.

“There is a big decline in the number of quarantined students in the district, which is a good sign,” a statement from Rugby Public Schools said. “The hope is that this continues but with the holidays coming up, we could see a spike in numbers again.”

The school board will next meet Jan. 12 at 7 a.m. in the Rugby High School library.

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