The March 20 regular meeting of the Kingsland School Board focused largely on the longstanding challenges of budget and facility needs. All members were present: Doug Plaehn, Deb Larson, Ann Oeltjen, Jackie Horsman, Tiffany Mundfrom, and Heather Betts, along with Superintendent John McDonald. No one addressed the board during the “Public Comments” portion of the meeting.
Jackie Horsman opened a discussion by saying that she appreciated the information that was shared with her and the other two new board members (Mundfrom and Betts) at recent study sessions, so that they could be brought up to speed on the issues. She suggested putting a referendum to voters for operating funds, as well as a building bond. She suggested that voters should be informed that if either of those fails to pass, the board would then proceed with the single-facility plan that has been previously proposed. She explained, “Basically, what I came up with is we need two things,…We need an operating referendum of about $548,000… In conjunction with that we’d need a (building) bond. The current numbers would be estimated at $11 million… That would cover all deferred maintenance at Spring Valley and Wykoff. It’d bring all known issues up to speed.” Regarding the cost estimates Horsman quoted, Superintendent McDonald pointed out that, “These numbers are from one to one-and-a-half years old …so we’d want to update these numbers.”
The board discussed what would happen if Horsman’s suggested plan were rejected by voters. She said that if either the operating or facility portions were rejected by voters, “If we go this direction, we need to inform voters prior to this vote that the board will immediately proceed with the closure of one site, and move all operations to one site if these fail…so either way, the kids are going to win…either way, the taxpayers are going to have a say.”
Board members discussed the referendum vote that occurred in November, which was voted down. Deb Larson said, “It’s hard to know if it was because it was going to one site, or if it was the price tag… I would support a five, six, seven million bond referendum for a gym that we need and a child care center… and I think a lot of the community would support six million versus 11 to 13 million.” Doug Plaehn shared his opinion that the board needs to bring “reasonable requests” to the voters, and since the November vote didn’t pass, more affordable options should be sought.
Regarding declining enrollment numbers, Larson pointed out, “We were given the numbers at the last curriculum meeting that there are 20 and 30 preschoolers per class right now in the district. So what will you need two buildings for?” Horsman said class size fluctuates, and she believes in allowing for growth capability. After discussion of the impact to taxpayers, Horsman made a motion to put her plan to voters. The motion failed to pass, four to two, with Horsman and Mundfrom voting in favor of it. No further action was taken.
After discussion, the board approved a one-year leave of absence request from Jake Vetter regarding his position as head girls basketball coach. He wishes to return as head coach for the 2018-2019 school year. Jeff Oian gave a presentation regarding the Infinite Campus Student Management System. He also shared information about the Information Systems Analyst position, which would be shared with the Grand Meadow School District. It was pointed out that this would be “cost-neutral” to Kingsland. The board approved this plan.
Superintendent McDonald gave public thanks to the following donors: the Booster Club for $500 to Targeted Services transportation, Deer Creek Long Spurs National Wild Turkey Federation for $500 to the trap team, Kingsland School Parents for purchasing the inflatables for KIS and KES, Kwik Trip for holiday items donated, Valley Christian Center and Pastor James and Emily Leonard for donating classroom materials, and Kiwanis for reading to each of the elementary classrooms. Business Manager Amber Uhlenhake gave the board a budgetary update, summarizing that the trend is continuing with revenues below, and expenses above, the numbers from one year ago at this date.
Superintendent McDonald shared the proposed 2017-2018 school year calendar, for the board to consider. He pointed out that the classroom days would start after Labor Day, and the final day of classes would me May 31, which totals 173 student days and 183 teacher days (including teacher inservices). McDonald explained that this calendar, for the first time, does not plan for any “snow days” because Kingsland is now using the Flexible Learning Day program, even though currently the state does not count FLD as official school days. But McDonald said Kingsland historically averages three to four days per year when classes are canceled due to weather, and that the proposed 2017-2018 calendar would work unless there are more than seven days of classes being canceled, which has never happened at Kingsland. He also pointed out that since this calendar does not need to allow for snow days, it allowed some “wiggle room” which resulted in a planned “mini spring break” from March 29 through April 3. He said in a worst-case scenario, if next winter is extremely bad, the board could, for example, shorten the spring break as needed. The board voted to accept the school calendar as proposed. The next regular meeting for Monday, April 17, at 6:30 p.m. in the district conference room. The public is welcome.