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School board mulls COVID policy changes

By Sue Sitter - | Sep 25, 2021

The Rugby Public School Board reviewed and made small changes to their Safe Return to In-Person Continuity of Services Plan at their regular meeting held Sept. 14 at Rugby High School.

Superintendent Mike McNeff told the board the changes would be posted on the district’s Facebook page that evening. Changes include deleting an outdated list of participants who developed the original return to school plan in 2020. Board members also eliminated a clause that allowed vaccinated individuals to attend and participate in activities after being exposed to COVID positive individuals “if they are symptom free and test (negative) 3-5 days after the exposure.” The clause required vaccinated individuals exposed to those testing COVID-positive to wear masks.

The board decided to leave the district’s current policy not to require mask wearing in schools in place.

The plan also includes a sample message that will be used to notify the parents or guardians of students who have been exposed to a COVID-positive classmate. “It is recommended that school close contacts stay home, but it is not required,” the message reads. The message asks that students be monitored at home for seven days and kept home if they show symptoms until symptoms improve.

The board also reviewed a presentation on the district’s 2022 budget presented by McNeff. The budget levies 60 mills for the district’s general fund and assumes a two percent increase in state aid payments per pupil. The budget also assumes a slight increase in average daily membership, the number of students attending school in the district per day.

Rugby Public School District will not receive funds distributed through a funding formula developed by the North Dakota Department of Instruction in the 2022 fiscal year, according to McNeff. The district will not qualify because a boost in property tax income from the Rugby district’s absorption of the Wolford School District makes Rugby’s schools ineligible for the formula.

The district’s budget also aligns with a growth cap, limiting revenue growth in dollars levied to not more than 12 percent of dollars received in the previous year.

Other considerations for the budget include a two-year agreement for teacher salaries, which went into effect May 2021; rising special education costs and improvements to the Ely Elementary campus. The Ely project will use money from the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund. According to McNeff, the Ely project should not incur expenses from other funds in the budget.

Three members of the public heard the presentation, but did not ask any questions. The final district budget will be submitted to the Pierce County Auditor Oct. 10.

The board also heard from Brittany Lovcik, who teaches family and consumer science classes at Rugby High School. Lovcik presented information on the Family Career and Community Leaders of America club, or FCCLA, which has active chapters in high schools in Harvey and Rolette.

Lovcik asked for the board’s support to begin an FCCLA chapter at Rugby High School. Although the district would provide some funds for the club, Lovcik said the chapter would be financed primarily through fundraising activities. She noted four students from Rugby High would go to Bottineau with her Sept. 22 for a leadership activity. She told the group she hoped to spark interest among students in the new program.

The board voted unanimously to establish the club at Rugby High.

In other business, Ely Elementary Principal Jason Gullickson told the board students in grades 4 through 6 were signing up to participate in Lego League. Rugby High Principal Jared Blikre told the board sophomores and juniors were attending college and career fairs in Devils Lake and Bottineau Sept. 14. Students were also excited about homecoming week, to be held Sept. 20-24.

The board also voted to increase substitute teacher pay from $125 per day to $150 per day. The board tabled discussions on an annual compliance report, extracurricular participation policy and summer school reports.

The board will hold their next meeting Oct. 12 at 7 a.m. in the Rugby High School library.

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