At the December 17, 2020, Houston School Board, the recent audit done by Clifton Larson Allen was shared in a detailed presentation. The school received a “clean audit” report with no internal control finding and no compliance issues. The local property tax covers 4.89% of the revenue for the school, with 89.53% coming from the state. This higher amount from the state is a result of most of the funding for MNVA coming from the state.
About 89% of the school’s budget is spent on direct student instruction. Transportation costs for the district were down this year since school was closed this spring and sports have been curtailed or canceled. Since the school owns their own buses, savings were realized here.
Capital expenditures had been up in recent past years and unrestricted balance has decreased as a result. With the science room upgrade completed, this year capital expenditures are expected to decrease. Unrestricted balance is at $1,321, 891.
Restricted/Reserved fund balance has increased due to $70,000 staff development from the state as well as the addition of the student activity funds ($115,000) and scholarship fund ($10,000). The money for staff development will be spent in the future for that purpose; the student activity fund and scholarship fund had merely been moved to the reserved fund; the fund will be larger as a result from now on.
The audit was completed fully remotely with no problem.
Superintendent Krin Abraham reported on the Governor’s executive order 20-103 as well as current COVID numbers in the school’s zip code. Noting that the order seemed to have a lot of contradictory information. Abraham informed the board that it was a priority to get students back in school. If the school waits until January 18, they must do a rolling start. This would mean that no more than three grade levels could return at one time. If the school chooses to reopen January 11 as the board had previously decided, they could bring everyone back at the same time.
Staff in person will need to wear both face shields and masks, biweekly saliva COVID tests will be available for the staff. Meals and specials will be in the classrooms. Students will need to wear face masks during indoor PE classes. For the elementary students grades PK-6, the learning model is no longer bound by any other numbers.
Houston zip code COVID numbers dropped to nine last week; this is the lowest it has been since November 5. In the county 1,044 have tested positive. She noted, “We’ve probably had most of the county already exposed to COVID.”
The board officially granted Abraham the authority to change the learning model for the school when time does not allow for a full board meeting. In January it will be necessary for her to make that decision since no meetings can occur before the January organizational meeting. Teachers are to have two school days to plan when learning models change. Abraham will make such decisions after consulting with the board chair and the COVID committee.
Sports practices will be able to begin January 4; no games have been scheduled yet.
Calling the current school website “archaic,” Abraham asked for the board to consider a switch from rSchooltoday to Apptegy for the school’s website. Apptegy is easy to update all social media platforms; Abraham called it “incredibly user friendly.” Each teacher would have their own page they can update. Abraham noted that currently the administration each try to keep a portion of the unwieldy rSchoolToday updated.
While there is usually a $12,000 setup fee, Apptegy has offered a reduced fee of $4,800 if the board approves it at the January 7 meeting. According to Abraham, the new site would be built over the next several months with a rollout in April; there would not be a day when the school has no website. The RSchools today site would be retained for sports scheduler and community education registration.
New school board member Mark Swenson encouraged the switch saying he felt the school would get more community engagement. Michaeleen Bonner asked for a developed plan to implement the new technology. The technology committee had recommended such a switch several years ago. Board consensus was to proceed with an official vote on the switch at the January 7 meeting.
In other business the board:
• Certified the 2020-2021 levy;
• Set their organizational meeting for January 7;
• Swore in reelected board members Mimi Carlson and Josh Norlien;
• Thanked retiring board member Michaeleen Bonner for her 17 years of service.
The next Houston School Board meeting will be January 7, 2021 at 6 p.m. The meetings are live-streamed on YouTube with recordings of Zoom meetings available on the school webpage as well. The public is welcome to attend and view; comments may be made on the school webpage as well.