Albert Lea school board hears revisions on policies

Published 10:21 am Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Mary Jo Dorman, executive director of teaching and learning, updated members of the Albert Lea school board on policy revisions during Monday night’s meeting.

A new part was technically added to Policy 603, which relates to curriculum development.

“All students reading … kindergarten, [first and second], and if they’re getting to grade three and below that we are screening for possible reading disabilities,” she said. “Our current reality is we do use a fast screener and we have a reading diagnostic test, so even though that was added, Part D, we currently are doing that practice already.”

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In Part E of the policy, if a student cannot meet the MCA requirements as a high schooler, parents will now be notified their child can attend school until 21 years old.

“Reaching out to all the other Big 9s, we’ve all discussed it, and at this point … we’ll be talking about having this policy in the high school handbook,” she said.

In Policy 605, related to alternative educational services, any student 17 years old who wants to withdraw will have to meet with administration. Parents will have to as well.

“Our current reality is that we have been doing that,” she said. “It’s a good practice, sitting down with families, finding out the ‘whys,’” she said.

In Policy 609, a new addition will allow educators to accommodate students wishing to be excused from a curricular activity for any religious observance. The policy will be added in all handbooks. Currently, the district allows absences for religious observances during curricular activities.

School chairman Neal Skaar reminded everyone that the changes to the policies will be on the school’s website. 

In other action, board members approved hiring John Double as the district’s new executive director of Community Education. Double will have a three-year contract.

“Glad that he applied and considered getting his Community Ed Director license,” said Kathy Niebuhr, executive director of administrative services.

Double will have one year to get that license. 

Board members approved the intention of the board to issue General Obligation School Building Bonds worth $1.01 million that will be used to help improve school security. 

“When the bonds from the 2018 vote were issued they did not go up to the total amount that was approved,” said Jennifer Walsh, executive director of finance and operations for the district. “So we have an opportunity now to issue additional bonds to get to that maximum amount of $1.01 million.”

Board member Bruce Olson asked if the district would consult with the police department or another safety expert regarding proposed security upgrades at school entrances, which were suggested during the board’s study session earlier this month. During that session, Walsh specifically addressed potential security upgrades at the high school, including putting someone behind a vestibule to serve as another layer of security before entering the building. 

According to Superintendent Ron Wagner, they have already consulted with a school resource officer as well as safety management to examine the point of entry at the school. They have also reached out to different consulting terms “just to get some potential input as we move forward as we look at the rest of our buildings.”

“We certainly understand the interest of our community and our school board in this initiative, and so this is something that we will absolutely keep everyone very well informed as we look to each of our schools, what we would be proposing, what it would look like,” Walsh said. “This has been very evident as I’ve been out in the community, that this is something people are interested in.”

There is no time frame for when the funds will need to be spent.

During reports to the board, Wagner noted how wonderful it was to be out last week during Homecoming and seeing students celebrate.

“Big thank you to students,” he said. “They were proud and loud at the football game.”

He also thanked the district and administration who participated.

In terms of the progress towards repairing the Southwest Middle School gym, he estimated it would be another three to four weeks before students could get back in the gym.

The district spent $3.618 million through Sept. 19, and accepted about $81,000  in donations through Aug. 22.

In district business, the board agreed to hire Miriam Highum, Sarah Lowe, Matthew Dorman, Danielle Wear, Karol Hansen, Robyn Maxey, Richard Sauvegau, Ashley Benson, Crystal Thompson, Michael Johnson, George Abrego, Becky Kronberg, Carrie Kirsch, Tiffany Mueller, Kayla Bahr, Nina Cardel, Ler Pwe, Krista Koyle and Mary Jo Volkman for a variety of positions. They agreed to leaves of absence for Breanna Rhiner, Nathan Wilson, Brittany Olson and Kimberly McIntosh, and accepted the resignations of Dylan Ek and Breanna Rhiner. They also agreed to fill over 40 positions on various fall coaching staffs.

Board members also approved a transfer of almost $18,400 from the General Fund to the Food Services Fund  to write-off negative food service balances for the 2021-22 students who qualified for free or reduced meals. 

The board approved a special school board meeting for 5 p.m. Oct. 24.

The next board meeting is at 5 p.m. Monday.