The ISD 318 School Board met on Monday, Aug.16 where Business Manager Kara Lundin provided an update on funds the district has received for pandemic relief.
“To-date the district has been awarded $11 million in COVID relief funds, however, much of that comes with different requirements and allowable spend dates,” explained Lundin.
Knowing that a third wave of funds was going to be provided by the federal government, the district identified four priorities in spending. Funds are being used to provide academic interventions and student support to help students with learning gaps; to create and expand systems to detect and respond to increased mental health and behavioral needs; to ensure adequate staffing for effective and safe instruction; and to invest in physical learning environments to improve teaching and learning conditions, health and safety, and operational efficiency.
“We don’t get this cash in hand immediately,” Lundin explained. “We get this money, actually, after we spend it. And this money has so many strings attached to it, so we can’t just spend it however we want. There are rules associated with it. And this money has come in waves, so there’s different timelines in which it has to be spent.”
A breakdown of COVID spending at ISD 318 is as follows:
Salaries and Benefits, $661,000
Purchased Services, $65,000
Technology & Software, $1,030,000
Personal Protective Equipment, $210,000
Instructional Supplies, $25,000
According to a press release from ISD 318, a total of $11 million has been promised to the district in COVID relief funds. The district will be reimbursed in qualifying funds up to that amount. With the above spending categories, a total of $2,391,000 or 22% of the promised funds have been spent as of June 30, 2021.
“Our school district has continued to see a reduction in compensatory funds and will take time to recover from the drop in enrollment during the 2020-2021 school year. While significant cuts were made during the budgeting process, we’re still concerned about spending moving forward,” said ISD 318 Superintendent Matt Grose.
Compensatory aid is allocated to the school district based on the number of families who receive educational benefits like free or reduced meals. Because all meals are free with the support of COVID funding, it is possible this number could continue to decrease.
“Families should know that there are additional benefits that come with the educational benefit form. In addition to discounts for families, approved applications bring an average of $1,400 per student in federal funding,” said Superintendent Grose. The educational benefits form is available online at www.isd318.org/edbenefits.
While much of the economy has improved with an easing of restrictions put in place due to the pandemic, schools will take time to recover. “We want to make sure we are planning for supports for our students and staff as they continue to feel the impacts of COVID-19,” said Superintendent Grose.
Lundin also reported the district is seeing a higher than expected enrollment for the 2021-22 school year. The district originally budgeted 3,900 students and currently is at more than 4,000 students enrolled.
“We’ve been getting enrollments from all over the country, all different states, all through the state of Minnesota, and homeschoolers coming back to school. So our schools are filling up very quickly,” Lundin noted.
A list of areas in which the COVID Relief Funds were spent is available on the school district’s website at isd318.org at Departments> Business Office> COVID Spending.
318 and 319 collaboration
Board members considered a resolution relating to the collaborative activities of ISD 318 (Grand Rapids, Cohasset, and Bigfork schools) and ISD 319 (Nashwauk-Keewatin schools). The resolution seeks to develop collaborative activities between the two districts, and other school districts, in order to provide improved educational opportunities for students. Specifically, the areas of student career and technical curriculum, and programming for members of underrepresented or disadvantaged communities, are addressed in the resolution.
The board considered pulling the resolution after Board Director Pat Medure brought up bringing the Greenway district into the conversation.
“The sooner we bring them into the fold, the better off it will be for both parties involved,” said Medure.
Board Director Malissa Bahr stated the Greenway district has been contacted about the topic and that they do not have a strict timeline for the resolution to be passed. Therefore, the board would have the option to wait to address it.
The board also acknowledged the complex history of how the local school districts have all worked together.
“There’s a lot of history, but there’s also a lot of complexity when you put IASC (Itasca Area Schools Collaborative). IASC is much more than Nashwauk-Keewatin, Greenway, Grand Rapids and Bigfork,” Bahr noted. “It’s bigger and so we have a lot to unpack and I think first and foremost, is it going to be good for the kids? And is it going to be good for our taxpayers?”
The resolution was taken off the table and the district will reach out to see if there are any other parties interested in being a part of the conversation.
The board approved a resolution calling a special election to fill the school board vacancy. The following names will be on the November 2, 2021 special election ballot: Ashley Goodman, Scotty Pugslisi, and Mark Schroeder.
“There will be no mail in ballot precincts for the special election ballots,” stated Board Chair Malissa Bahr.
In other business, the ISD 318 school board took action on the following items:
• Approved minutes of July 19, 2021 regular school board meeting.
• Approved July 2021 claims in the amount of $7,485,728.71.
• Approved Permission to Post third grade teacher position at West Rapids Elementary. The position was added in order to reduce class sizes as there are over 27 new enrollments coming into the third grade class at West Rapids.
• Approved varsity head coach contracts.
• Approved a resolution calling for a hearing on sale of abatement bonds.
• Rescinded original resolution declaring the official intent of the school district to reimburse certain expenditures from the proceeds of the bonds issued by the school district.
• Approved resolution declaring the official intent of the School District to reimburse certain expenditures from the proceeds of the bonds issued by the School District.
• Approved resolution calling for approving transfer of Forest Lake property to City of Grand Rapids.
• Approved resolution certifying David Marty as School Board Clerk to sign documents involved in deed transfer and party wall agreement with City of Cohasset.
• Approved 2021-22 ISD 318 handbooks for Grand Rapids High School, Bigfork High School, Robert J. Elkington Middle School, Elementary Schools, ISD 318 Coach & Advisor, ISD 318 Employee, Digital Student Learning Initiative, Early Childhood Programs, and Education Support Professional (ESP).
• Accepted second reading and approved policy 417 Chemical Use and Abuse; and policy 418 Drug-Free Workplace / Drug-Free School.
• Board members approved the meeting’s consent agenda with the following staffing changes: Jessie Ahonen, Teacher hire; Candace Carsella-Key, ESP replacement hire; Eddie Cease, Teacher replacement hire; Donna Frandsen, Food & Nutrition retirement; Evangelina Gutierrez, Food & Nutrition replacement hire; Bruce Hansen, Bus Driver resignation; Danni Herschbach, ESP replacement hire; Rebecca Jones, ESP resignation; Rebecca Jones, Custodian replacement hire; Sheri LaSarge, Food & Nutrition replacement hire; Aaron Locken, 7th Grade Boys Basketball Coach replacement hire; Jeff Lyman, Custodian replacement hire; Margo Mattei, Teacher replacement hire; Holly Neary, ESP replacement hire; Heather O’Gorman, Food & Nutrition replacement hire; Megan Pehrson, Facilities Secretary replacement hire; Trisha Peterson, ESP replacement hire; Dan Potter, Head Softball Coach replacement hire; Veronica Rohloff, Teacher replacement transfer hire; Logan Schlader, ESP replacement hire; Darlene Schmitz, ESP retirement; Mary Schroeder, Secretary resignation; Jack Soltis, ESP replacement hire; Rebecca Walzak, Special Education Teacher replacement hire; Kaila Wass, AVID Teacher position; and Kelly Wilkinson, Teacher replacement hire.