By Wanda Hanson
With just a few weeks remaining before the September 8 start of the 2020-2021 school year, the Houston School Board met August 20, 2020, with a focus on a smooth start to the year.
Superintendent Krin Abraham shared updates on the COVID-19 detail: for teachers who request to work from home, the board is “to the extent possible” make accommodations. SPED paras can be used in non-SPED situations if the school is in a hybrid or distance learning model. The district is allowed to seek space in city buildings or churches if necessary for more daycare during the hybrid model.
Regarding the planning group’s recommendations, the board assured the group that they would “take the input from the group and use it.” While the board will be consulted for any necessary calendar changes, they recognized that there could be times when decisions night need to be made quickly. Chairman Tom Stilin noted that if the school needed to go to a more restrictive model because some people tested positive for COVID, this would be a situation where, “we’re going to have to do it on the fly.” Abraham informed the board the committee would be meeting weekly and would be available to help make decisions in an emergency.
New high school principal, Michael Mangan shared with the board that he’d sent out a letter to the high school students about the beginning of the year. High school students will be attending school in person on the first Wednesday (September 9) of the school year in order to learn the logistics of the subsequent distance learning Wednesdays. A back-to-school night on September 2 is planned for the high school with seventh and eighth graders attending from 6-7 p.m. and ninth through twelfth graders from 7-8 p.m..
Elementary Principal Rick Bartz told the board that the elementary would not be having a back-to-school open house. Elementary supply lists are being reduced; extra furniture and shelves are being removed from the classrooms to increase room capacity. Packets with class placement and greeting letters from the teachers were to be sent out the next day after the board meeting. Different dismissal times and various doors will be used by classes to reduce congestion at dismissal. Bartz shared that the summer Hurricane Watch has been running as it will this fall with no difficulties. “It was a good trial run,” he declared.
Supt. Abraham informed the board that two tents have been purchased to give the elementary and the high school more room for lunch. Eight tables have been borrowed from the Hoedown committee; the school is searching for 22 tables to rent. Lunch prices will need to increase by ten cents; breakfast will remain the same cost as last year. Applications for free and reduced lunch will be sent out to all families, included on the school website, and published in the Houston Banner. The board suggested including it on the Facebook site as well as the school TV channel. Families who qualify are urged to apply!
Abraham asked that the board approve the use of CRF funds to hire a digital navigator to help all the new teachers at MNVA navigate the technology. It was agreed that the hiring should be done with the board approval to follow since time was of the essence. MNVA enrollment is currently at 2,053 compared to 1,290 in 2019. There will probably be 1,000 more students at MNVA by the time school begins. Abraham noted that the largest jump was in elementary enrollment.
The board approved the ballot for the upcoming school board election. On the ballot are Mimi Carlson, Jacob Norlien and Richard Erdmann, and space for a write-in candidate for the two four-year positions and two write-in blanks for the one-year position.
The Truth in Taxation meeting was set for December 3, 2020 at 6:30 p.m.
The next Houston School Board meeting will be held September 3 at 6 p.m.; the public is welcome to attend and to submit any questions or concerns on the school website as well.