At the very end of the January 21, 2021, Houston School Board meeting, Superintendent Krin Abraham informed the board that she will be retiring in June. Abraham declared, “I love this place; I love this district, but I need to be done. I want you to be able to start looking now.”
Board member Arlin Peterson, who has had a relationship with Abraham both as a fellow teacher and as a board member working with a superintendent, spoke up, “Krin’s done a good job; she was an excellent teacher and has put the same effort into being a superintendent. The thing I appreciate the most about Krin is that she stands up and doesn’t back down. She’ll argue with us if she needs to.”
Abraham responded, “I’ve wanted to make sure every kid wants to come to school here and every teacher wants to work here.”
Chairman Tom Stilin thanked Abraham for letting the board know early. “We need to get on top of this sooner than later,” he commented, noting that the board wanted to advertise soon for a replacement. He and vice chair Mimi Carlson will begin working on this.
Superintendent Abraham shared that the zip code COVID data has remained single digit for the sixth consecutive week. Currently three elementary students, two high school students, and two staff members are quarantined because of COVID. The school has returned to hybrid status.
Face shields that were ordered for staff were not compliant with the state regulations; they will need a foam piece added to them. This foam might have latex in it. People with latex allergies will not be able to use them.
Saliva testing for the teachers is up and running. Students ages 12-25 returning to school or participating in sports or extracurricular activities also need to test for COVID. Schools are not required to do that testing; families are advised to use the statewide testing sites.
The entire school district including MNVA has been allocated a total of only five COVID vaccines for all staff. The school has been asked to prioritize all employees based on needs. Vaccines are available at Willow Creek Middle School and may possibly be given at Gundersen Clinic or Houston County Public Health. Teachers are not required to get the vaccine and are encouraged to get them through other methods if they have access.
Pandemic EBT program is available to the families who qualified for free or reduced lunch previously. Families are encouraged to apply before February 28 for this debit card that allows families to purchase food at the grocery store. The card will be delivered directly to families.
The board looked at two options for the calendar, a “tight” calendar that has the last day of school on June 1 and a “loose” calendar that has more days off built into the year with a last day of school on June 8. The staff was in favor of the “loose” version; the board will be deciding which to use at their next meeting. Abraham encouraged the board to continue with an early out on Wednesdays; the teachers have been finding that collaboration time to be extremely beneficial.
Mimi Carlson asked that further research be done on the subject. Chair Tom Stilin asked that the principals talk to the teachers and have them compile a list of the pros. The board is aware that the early out would cause problems for some working parents. A decision on this would need to be made in May.
In other business, the board:
Passed a resolution directing Abraham to make recommendations for reductions in programs and staff. This was necessary since it’s unknown how many students will leave MNVA next fall to return to brick and mortar schools;
Heard from Mimi Carlson that the new website is “leaps and bounds” above the current website; the district tech committee has been looking at designs and need to decide how they want the site arranged;
Learned how any future snow days will be handled; the first snow day will be a traditional snow day, any days after that will be eLearning days. The principals will work with the teachers to clarify the expectations for staff and students.
The next school board meeting will be February 4, 2021 at 6 p.m. in the media center; the public is welcome to attend. The meeting will continue to be streamed live as well with a link available on the school website. Comments may be submitted via email as well.