Mabel-Canton’s School Board held a regular meeting on May 19, via remote technology, due to coronavirus prevention guidelines. Board members participating included Chris Miller, Mark Wiedemann, Cristal Adkins, Jason Marquardt, Traci Livingood, Diane Wilder, Dustin Tollefsrud, and student representatives Colton Heintz-Kuderer and Sarina Stortz. Also in attendance were Superintendent Gary Kuphal, Principal Michelle Wiedemann, and Business Manager Aimee Lake.
The board discussed graduation plans. The original graduation date was set for May 29. Kuphal said that if that date is used, there would likely be some type of “parade” of the seniors through Mabel and Canton, and the graduates would then be given their diplomas immediately afterward. The board voted to set two contingent graduation dates that could be used, as needed: June 26 and July 24.
In the “Good Things Happening” portion of the agenda, Superintendent Kuphal gave a big thanks to Sheila Nordsving, saying, “She put together packages of cookies from the Cookie Lady in Spring Grove, packages of six, enough packages for all school employees. So, very much appreciated… and tasty!” The school also acknowledged with gratitude donations (Jennifer Hicks, $200 to the school library; and Arlin C. Falck Foundation, $450 to the fourth grade Junior Achievement curriculum).
Students Heintz-Kuderer and Stortz reported on their experiences in the unique circumstances that this school year has entailed. They agreed that students are very ready for the school year to end, and Heintz-Kuderer added, “We’d still much rather be in the building than doing it all at home.”
Principal Michelle Wiedemann voiced kudos to all Mabel-Canton students and their parents for their efforts during the distance learning process that has been in place this spring. She said she’s working on a survey to allow students and parents to give feedback about what worked, and what could be done better, in case distance learning is still a part of the plan in the fall. She also plans to ask staff to brainstorm ideas regarding three possible scenarios. The first scenario assumes that students will physically return to classes as normal in the fall. The second scenario assumes some type of “hybrid” system (a mixture of distance learning and traditional instruction). The final “what if” scenario assumes that current distance learning would continue into the next school year. She will ask staff to give their thoughts and suggestions, but she said formal planning would likely happen during the staff’s five non-instruction days just before the school year begins in the fall.
Summer meals were also discussed. As of now, there is no funding available for Mabel-Canton to continue providing meals through the summer, because current rules stipulate that a school must have at least 49% of the enrolled students qualifying for free or reduced lunches. Mabel-Canton has roughly 30% that qualify for free or reduced meals. There is still the slim possibility that rules may change, but administration officials are not optimistic.
Kuphal brought up the topic of the Senior Student Activity Account, which he said totals roughly $30,000. He said that after talking with senior students and their parents, it was clear that they view the money as “theirs,” but Kuphal said it is actually up to the school board to decide what happens to the money. Kuphal said it is not allowable for the money to simply be given directly back to individual students. The board discussed several allowable ways to “give the money back” to the seniors, via such options as scholarships, put it toward some type of “school project,” or possibly even funding a class graduation party (or any combination thereof). Kuphal said there are challenging rules about how and when the money can be used. The board chose to ask the senior students to decide what they prefer, and then a special meeting of the board will be held in June to finalize a decision, so the funds can be earmarked/used before the June 30 deadline.
Kuphal mentioned that several board members have terms that are ending at the end of this calendar year. He said that the terms of Cristal Adkins, Chris Miller, Jason Marquardt, and Mark Wiedemann will end on December 31. They have the option to file for re-election, and the window of opportunity for them (and/or anyone else wishing to run for the applicable school board positions) will be July 28 through August 11.
The board discussed the School Perceptions survey that was previously approved, as part of Mabel-Canton’s plans to determine how much of a building bond the voters would support. Kuphal said if the board wishes to move forward with the survey in time to get the bond referendum onto ballots in the November election, the board would need to give the “green light” now for the survey to happen. After discussion, the board voted to move forward with the survey, and will then use the findings from that survey to determine how much to ask voters to consider funding via a referendum.
The board voted for lunch prices to remain unchanged for the next school year. The next regular board meeting will be Tuesday, June 16 at 6 p.m. Any members of the public interested in listening to the meeting are asked to contact the school beforehand to get call-in details.