With the new reduced masking regulations announced by the state, the Rushford-Peterson School Board members conducted their regular monthly board meeting on May 17 sans masks. Superintendent Jon Thompson joked with new board member Ken Sawle that it was the first time he’d seen his face!
Thompson assured the board that teachers, staff and students would continue to wear masks through the end of the year. “It’s 11 days – I can do that!” Thompson declared, noting that there were currently two positive cases of COVID in the elementary and parents would feel better knowing precautions were being taken. By next fall, hopefully, everything will be back to normal.
The board went on to officially rescind a face covering policy that was up for approval since it was no longer necessary.
Graduation will be inside with the students seated on the gym floor and families and friends in the bleachers. The masked graduates will be called up on stage to receive their diplomas; once again, the school board will be able to congratulate the grads as they leave the stage.
Prom was held with the grand march on the track and Tony Becker served as DJ. It also was relatively normal with the exception of masks being worn by attendees during the actual dance.
The biennial Spanish Club trip to Costa Rica is on once again for June 14-22, 2021, with 10 to 15 students planning to attend.
Plans for next year
COVID ESSER funding will actually provide some positive effects for next school year. With 20% of the ESSER funding earmarked for helping students with “COVID slide,” no staff will need to be cut. The ESSER III funding proved to be twice as much as the previous ESSER II was. As a result, there will be an extra teacher to help with every two classrooms as well as a Title I teacher for the elementary. This will allow for smaller group instruction which will help bring struggling students to grade level. In addition, an afterschool program will be possible next year. Plans are to increase the school psychologist time to an extra day each week.
The library and story time will return next year. This year the librarian worked from a cart as the media center was used as an additional classroom.
Science teacher Jacob Kramer appeared to ask the board’s blessing on two new clubs for RPHS. He will be the advisor for both Go Green, a club focused on environmental sustainability and recycling programs and Diversity Club, a club dealing with sexual orientation, gender, and thinking about different perspectives. Kramer hopes to bring back the Envirothon to R-P.
School age vaccinations have already begun. On May 20, 60 students ages 12–15 were slated for COVID vaccinations at school. Students unable to get a vaccine that day will be able to receive one at Winona Health or through Fillmore County Health in Preston.
The board approved the new three-year superintendent contract with Jon Thompson, tacking on an additional two years to his current contract. The new contract will be for 52 fewer days each year and provide a 20% saving in salary expense.
Board member Bonnie Prinsen commented, “I don’t see a downside in this; the district will save money and we have a superintendent in place for the next three years!”
Thompson plans on typically working Monday through Thursday and adjusting for Friday events requiring his presence.
The board went through budget revisions as well. This past year enrollment was down by 41 students in part because the incoming class was smaller than the graduating class. Thirty students opted out of R-P this past year because of COVID. This negatively affected the budget; however, the additional funding from COVID relief programs lessened the impact on the budget. It remains to be seen how many of those students will return to R-P in person next year.
Lisa Lawston, Community Education Director made some cost effective changes which changed the budget deficit in community education from $63,005 to $34,371.
Thompson will be working with the board to set a budget on facilities going forward. The facilities budget is used for technology purchases, the tech director, and recently for the additional sports fields at the new school complex.
In other business, the board:
•Approved the contract with Hiawatha Valley Mental Health;
•Approved the agreement to reimburse for student membership with Hiawatha Valley Education District for the 2021-2022 school year;
•Continued to officially work through all the policies of the school;
•Recognized Zenessa Anderson as R-P’s first ever state champion in speech; she participated in the storytelling category.
The next R-P School Board meeting will be held June 21 at 5:30 p.m. in the forum room. The public is welcome to attend.