Mabel-Canton’s School Board held a regular meeting on July 28, via remote technology, due to coronavirus prevention guidelines. The meeting lasted nearly three hours, with a large portion of that devoted to the topic of the school’s plans for sending a bond referendum to voters in November.
Sue Peterson, representing School Perceptions, addressed the board to summarize results of the recent survey that was done to gauge the community’s feelings about the school district, and to determine what level of financial support voters are likely to approve in a building bond referendum.
Peterson stated that School Perceptions sent out a total of 985 surveys, and that 269 were returned, for a participation rate of 27%, which she said is good, since such surveys usually see a participation rate of 18% to 20%. She also explained that the results can be viewed as a whole, or broken into three distinct and mutually-exclusive groups: staff, parents who are not staff, and general citizens. She said the third group represents roughly 75% of the survey recipients.
Peterson shared that survey respondents showed very strong support for the Mabel-Canton school district, and that respondents overwhelmingly support continuing to provide at least the current level of bond support through taxation. She then summarized that Mabel-Canton has prioritized a list of additional items the district would like to put to voters to consider. The district’s “top priority” bond items would total around $5.7 million to taxpayers, and the entire list would run to just over $10 million.
According to Peterson, the survey shows that voters would very likely support the “priority” list ($5.7 million) and that the support threshold is likely somewhere close to the $7 million mark. Therefore, she suggested the district may wish to have a ballot question for the $5.7 million package, and then another ballot question for whatever additional items the district chooses to ask for.
The board took no formal action at this time, but set a special meeting for Monday, August 3 at 6 p.m. to decide upon exactly what questions to include on the ballot as part of the bond referendum in November. Superintendent Kuphal shared his feeling that as Mabel-Canton works to educate the community about whatever referendum questions the board decides upon, the individual board members will be crucial in the efforts to garner more support throughout the district.
The board next discussed the challenges in determining how to open school this fall. Principal Michelle Wiedemann stated that a recent survey of students/families found that 67.6% favored school opening entirely in-person. Ten percent favored distance learning, and 22% preferred a “hybrid” mixture of in-person and distance learning. It was pointed out that Governor Walz is expected to make an announcement very soon that could impact what options the school board has on this issue, so the board chose to set a special meeting for Thursday, August 6 at 6 p.m. to decide upon which scenario is best for opening school this fall.
Cristal Adkins read aloud a letter from the board’s student representative, Colton Heintz-Kuderer. Besides giving an update on recent events and sports, his letter also stated, in part, “I would like to share my perspective about school in the fall… As a student at Mabel-Canton, I personally believe we need to be in the building as much as possible… Students need more interaction than just sitting in front of a computer screen for several hours a day.”
Superintendent Kuphal shared that due to COVID-19 concerns, there has been discussion about partnering with other nearby schools to share a “school nurse” for the upcoming school year. No details on cost are yet available. The board consensus was to continue looking into this possibility.
The board voted to set the annual Community Volunteer Day for Sunday, August 16 (with a “rain date” of August 23). The upcoming meetings for the board are a special meeting on Monday, August 3 at 6 p.m. (to decide upon bond questions to put to voters), and another special meeting on Thursday, August 6 at 6 p.m. (to discuss details on how to open the school year). The next regular board meeting will be Tuesday, August 18 at 6 p.m. Any members of the public interested in listening to meetings are asked to contact the school beforehand to get call-in details.