By Wanda Hanson
The Houston School Board dealt with an influx of students in MNVA when they met on September 3, 2020. Last year’s enrollment in MNVA was 1,303 students; this year’s enrollment is 2,444 at this time, an increase of 1,141. As a result, MNVA will need 25 more teachers. Since 405 of those students have IEPs, more special education teachers will be included in the hiring. Ten new teachers were officially hired at the meeting and two more teachers received increased contracts. Background checks need to be completed before officially hiring the remaining teachers. Until those teachers are hired, the school will be using teachers on call.
Joslyn Runyan was hired for the new position of digital navigator. As digital navigator she will assist the new MNVA teachers as they begin teaching online. Funding for the new position came from CRF. Corona Relief Funds allow this position to help with digital literacy for digital classrooms. MNVA has recently changed platforms; all teachers are in the process of learning to use it.
Four local MNVA employees have been approved to each work an extra 10 hours per week to take care of the increased workload. “The on-line teachers are busting their butts to get everything done,” Superintendent Krin Abraham commented.
Summit Learning also is seeing an uptick in enrollment, going from 12 last year to currently 21. Enrollment will be capped art 25; over half of those students are from surrounding communities.
COVID prep updates
Administration shared the most recent information on their school’s COVID preparation. Elementary Principal Rick Bartz told the board the elementary classes have assigned areas outside for classes with portable easels and whiteboards. Lockers are not being assigned at this time at the high school in order to keep students from congregating at their lockers to visit. Plexiglas will be delivered and installed before school begins in the computer area of the media center as well as in the science and SPED rooms.
Board member Josh Norlein had questions from the community about procedures. Abraham told the board that parents will be signing off on their child’s health for the day; the school will also have thermal scan thermometers that will scan students’ wrists as they enter the school.
Chriomebooks will be used as cameras in all classrooms with the teachers using their computers to present lessons. Teachers will also have headsets so the distance learners will be able to hear everything the teachers say. Classes will use Google Meet.
Face shields will be used by teachers to teach phonics and speech. Speech students will also use face shields in speech class. Some masks with clear plastic will be available as well.
Tents will be arriving September 14 for lunch. Currently the school has some picnic tables, but they still need a total of 16 more.
Abraham told the board the school is using the Houston County COVID case numbers to determine the learning model parameter since so few students live in Winona County. Using a reliable local resource who created a running spreadsheet with real-time data, the planning committee is able to look ahead three weeks in the future to determine if it is necessary to change the learning parameters.
Getting buses to 50% capacity was difficult. Preschoolers won’t fit on any transportation. Parents have been asked to transport their preschoolers; as a result, preschool numbers have dropped by eight.
In other business the board:
• Approved meal prices with an increase of 10 cents from last year;
• Set Supt. Abraham as identified official with authority;
• Approved the Taher contract;
• Approved policies regarding face coverings;
• Accepted gifts from FlexCraft of various school supplies and paper products; from Hurricane Foundation and Diane Poppe of masks for students and staff and Hurricane Survival Kits that were handed out at back to school nights;
• Accepted with thanks a scholarship established in memory of Joe Krage.
The next board meeting is September 17 at 6 p.m.; the public is welcome. Questions and comments can also be submitted online on the school webpage.