The Kingsland School Board met April 17 in regular session, with all members present: Doug Plaehn, Deb Larson, Ann Oeltjen, Jackie Horsman, Tiffany Mundfrom, and Heather Betts, along with Superintendent John McDonald. After approving the consent agenda items, McDonald gave public thanks to the Spring Valley Sportsman’s Club for donating $841.50 to the trap team, American Legion Post #68 for donating $500 to the trap team, Spring Valley Area Ambulance for volunteering the past two years to teach CPR skills to the tenth grade health classes, Marilyn Erdman for decorating at the intermediate school, Root Rover Dental (Stewartville) for donating toothpaste, Missi Koebke/Linda Niemeyer/Donna Musel/Trish Montgomery for volunteering at the book fair, and the VFW for donation of $500 to the trap team.
In Public Comments, the board heard from Jeff Erding, regarding how open enrollment continues to impact Kingsland, stating, “Something that never occurred to me before but was brought to my attention…It’s not just the money we lose when they go, but as soon as we try to do something on a referendum, that’s going to be a NO vote from that family,…” Erding also asked if Kingsland has a policy whereby families that are “open enrolling out” of Kingsland must complete an exit interview before the student’s transcripts will be released. Plaehn said Kingsland doesn’t have such a policy, and would not be able to withhold transcripts in this way. McDonald said Kingsland does attempt to complete exit interviews as students are leaving.
Erding showed a folder which he said was the petition from the fall of 2016, which he said now has over 600 signatures, encouraging the Kingsland board to keep the Wykoff school open, and he added, “We gotta have public meetings if we’re going to get anything done…I’m here to help in any way I can.” Plaehn asked Erding, “Setting the building issues aside… how many of the (petition) signers would support a 20 to 25% increase in their taxes” (to cover annual operational costs of keeping both sites running)? Erding answered, “I don’t know, but let them tell you.” Oeltjen pointed out that a significant percentage of the families in the Kingsland district are at or below federal poverty level, so any significant tax increases would be a hardship.
Another citizen (Amber Z) spoke to the council about her frustration with staff members not responding to her requests for information. The board then heard a report from two FFA students on recent and upcoming happenings with the FFA club.
The board voted to again use Smith Schafer & Associates for the annual audit, noting that their bid was the lowest of the three submitted. The board also approved the FY16 Capital Outlay Items as presented.
Building & Grounds Director John Dols shared updated cost estimates for a single-site option at Kingsland, including how rooms might be used with, and without, an Early Childhood Learning center in the building. When asked if everything and everyone would really fit, he answered, “It’s do-able, but it’s tight.” Regarding the gym, Dols explained that breakfast hours would need to be changed (so the cafeteria gym could be used for PE at times), and some sports practices would need to be held later in the evenings. The other option, he explained, is to build an “add-on” gym and stage area, at a cost of around $5 million. If the Early Learning center were built separately (just north of the track), it would cost roughly $3.4 million. Kingsland has also talked with Morton Buildings, who could build these new buildings at a somewhat lower cost, although McDonald said the comparisons are not exactly “apples to apples.” The board also discussed the possibility of continuing to use just the gym at Wykoff, although it was pointed out that if the entire building remains, it would need to be maintained. Dols estimated a cost of roughly $1.5 million to fix-up the Wykoff gym enough to continue using it, and noted that does not include ongoing costs. Board members discussed that the budget and buildings options and costs can become confusing, and many citizens undoubtedly don’t understand the challenges and options. It was decided that the Finance/Facilities committee will hold a special meeting on April 24 to come up with a communication plan to share information with the public about facility and budget needs and options.
The board approved items 8.1 through 8.6, which included discontinuing the 1.0 school social worker position, placing Ann Halloran on Leave of Absence, and discontinuing the attendance secretary position (all effective at the end of this fiscal year), approving a two-year technology contract with Jeff Oian, and hiring a K-6 elementary teacher. The next regular meeting for Monday, May 15, at 6:30 p.m. in the district conference room. The public is welcome.