The Mabel-Canton School Board met in regular session on December 15. Most members were present in person, although Business Manager Aimee Lake participated via remote technology.
Superintendent Gary Kuphal spoke to the board regarding the COVID-19 trends in the local area, and throughout the county. He stated that although numbers have been increasing in Fillmore County, the numbers have stayed very low in the Mabel-Canton area. He acknowledged that this could change quickly, and shared that he’s heard many Americans are feeling, “We stayed home at Thanksgiving, but we’re not going to stay home at Christmas,” so many health experts are expecting a large surge in COVID following the holidays.
Kuphal said because of this, “We want to be proactive,” and the school board has voted to have students in grades 5-12 in the “distance learning” model for the first two weeks after the Christmas break, while students in grades K-4 will continue on the “hybrid” model. He explained that there are logistical reasons for having different learning models for the two groups of students, and said this represents a change from how the board originally devised the COVID plan.
He then asked the board to give thought as to what should be done regarding activities and athletics. He said there are many options to consider, such as canceling practices and games, or canceling just games, or canceling for junior high but allowing high school games to continue. He pointed out that if games continue, that could result in student-athletes being exposed to competitors from known COVID “hot spots.” The board took no formal action, with members saying they wanted to hear Governor Walz’s recommendations during his expected update on December 16.
Immediately prior to the regular board meeting, the board held its annual Truth in Taxation public hearing. Although no citizens were in attendance to voice questions or concerns, the board heard a presentation from Lake, including “How is my property tax determined?” Following the presentation, the public hearing closed, and the board later approved the final levy as proposed. The total levy amount is $1,053,860.16.
Kuphal presented the board with a proposed list of coaches and volunteers for the winter. His written report to the board stated, in part, “Enclosed is the list of winter coaches, which is almost identical to last year. The one change is that Lonnie (Morken) is now volunteering to coach the junior high girls’ basketball team, so Laura Vatland will receive the full stipend rather than splitting it as in the past. Your approval is recommended.” The board approved the list, and also approved a proposed plan to pay winter coaches one-third of their pay for work already completed. If the season continues, the remaining pay would be paid out over the next two months.
The board’s student representative Colton Heintz-Kuderer gave an update on how school is going. Principal Wiedemann shared that she is seeking another student representative, to join Colton in attending board meetings, and she is considering a sophomore student, since no junior student was identified.
Kuphal shared that the Minnesota State High School League has gotten feedback from many schools that are unhappy with the additional fee that schools are being asked to pay. He said that although the MSHSL has “reduced, a little bit” the amount being asked of schools, there are still many schools, including Mabel-Canton, that have not yet paid. He said in some cases, schools have decided they will not pay it. He said it’s possible those schools could be removed from the MSHSL, although he said it seems unlikely that a large number of schools would be kicked out. He summarized that, “It’s just kind of in limbo,” as schools wait to see if the MSHSL will alter their expectations about the fee. The board took no action at this time.
Board Chair Cristal Adkins gave Superintendent Kuphal a summary of his annual evaluation, which was compiled from rating sheets submitted by individual board members. She stated that, overall, Kuphal received a very strong rating of 4.56 on a five-point scale. She also said there was strong agreement among the board members, with no job areas showing large discrepancies in the ratings submitted.
Mabel-Canton will hold a special meeting (public hearing) on December 29, to consider a proposed property tax abatement. The board’s regular meeting in January will be January 19 at 6 p.m. The public is welcome at these meetings, although masks are expected, and social distancing will be observed.