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School board approves health policy, more at May meeting

By Sue Sitter - | May 15, 2021

Sue Sitter/PCT Rugby Public School Board members consider the purchase of land adjacent to Ely Elementary School property at its regular May meeting.

Members of the Rugby Public School board discussed matters ranging from contact tracing to grading systems at its regular meeting May 11 in the Rugby High School library.

The meeting included two executive sessions, one to discuss negotiating strategies for teacher contracts and another to discuss contract-tracing policy with attorneys.

After the second executive session, the board voted to approve a policy to “cooperate with the (North Dakota Department of Health) and require isolation and quarantine for the following instances: those that test positive for COVID-19 and those who are identified as household contacts.”

The policy calls for the NDDOH, rather than the school district, to conduct tracing of close contacts. The policy gives the school district the role of notifying school close contacts through the district’s instant alert system. The district would also ask parents and teachers to monitor students’ symptoms of those identified as school close contacts.

“It is strongly recommended that school close contacts stay home and follow the recommendations from the NDDOH,” the text of the policy said. “Students and staff that are sick need to stay home until their symptoms improve.”

Board members Brenda Heilman, Dustin Hager, Carlie Johnson and Kris Blessum voted to approve the policy, while Shane Livedalen voted “nay.”

The board also heard a plan to expand school property along Third Avenue Southwest across from the Ely Elementary School building. Superintendent Mike McNeff told the board the owner of a home adjacent to school property had offered to sell the home to the district. The board approved the purchase of the property for a sum of $45,500 using funds from the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER funds.

The board also approved a proposal to update the grandstand area at Rugby High School’s Johnsen Field. Improvements slated for the grandstand include restrooms modified to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, plumbing in the concession stand and roof repairs in the crow’s nest section of the grandstand. Existing wheelchair ramps would also be made more level for easier use.

Other purchases approved by the board include the purchase of the “Big Ideas” math curriculum for use in kindergarten through 12th grades.

The board listened to an informational presentation by teachers Dan Seykora and Cassie Duchscher, who explained the grading and educational standard system used by Ely Elementary School. The system, called Empower, uses a scale of one to four to measure proficiency and progress in learning.

Several members pointed out that parents may be confused by the system, which could imply a child with a score of 2 had not met standards for his or her class, while in reality, the number reflected the progress a student had made halfway through a lesson that had not yet been completely taught.

Board members recommended that district explain the system to parents.

In other business, the board heard updates on a new construction plan to expand the Ely Elmentary campus. Board members voted to approve the purchase of a legal advertisement for a construction manager at risk position. Statements of qualification by applicants will be due by June 4. The interview and selection process begins June 7 and interested firms must be available for interviews June 9.

In other business, the board approved minutes from its April regular and special meetings, approved payable bills and financials from April’s regular board meeting and approved a tuition agreement to allow a student from the Lewis and Clark School district near Minot to attend Rugby Public Schools.

Board members also approved Marlene Schaatz and Deb Swingle to fill election judge positions.

The board accepted resignations submitted by teachers Savannah Harbaugh and Melissa Tormanen.

A scheduled technology plan presentation was tabled until the board’s June meeting.

In other business, McNeff shared results from a study of ACT test scores by district high school students. “We’re doing well, exceeding expectations,” McNeff said.

The board also tapped Kris Blessum to present diplomas at the Rugby High School graduation.

RHS Principal Jared Blikre told the board Rugby High’s 2021 graduation would take place on May 30 and be open to the public. Blikre said other upcoming events for RHS students include state track in Bismarck May 28-29, state golf for boys in Carrington June 1-2 and state golf for girls in Jamestown on the same dates. State softball and baseball will take place June 3-5 in Fargo.

Other June events for high school students participating in activities include the state FFA convention June 7-10 and the state clay target league tournament in Horace June 18-20.

Ely Elementary Principal Jason Gullickson told the board students at the school had been busy with field trips in May. Students would also be offered free vision screenings at the school May 12 courtesy of the Rugby Lions.

Gullickson said kindergarten through sixth graders had performed a musical, which was uploaded to YouTube and will be available for viewing for one month.

A targeted summer school program will be available to 22-24 elementary students this year, according to Blikre. The students, whose parents have already been contacted about the program, will attend three days per week for three hours per day during the last three weeks of both June and July. The program will focus on literacy.

The board will hold its next regular meeting June 14 at 7 a.m. in the Rugby High School library.

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