Parent group attends school board meeting to discuss return of swimming unit to physical education classes

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Montevideo American-News

A group of parents of Thunder Hawk swim team participants attended the Montevideo School Board meeting Monday evening to approach the idea of introducing a swimming unit back into the Physical Education class at the school. Carol Ahrens spoke on behalf of the group, noting that the swimming unit was in existence as a part of the Physical Ed curriculum years ago, but that it fell to the wayside. “They would take some classes from the middle school over to the high school and introduce them to the water, and I thought that was a great opportunity,” Ahrens explained. “Three of my children got to go through it. I have a fourth one that did not go through it.” 

Additionally, Ahrens noted that the group understands that the instructor of the swim unit would need to acquire additional licensing, but that the group sees enough value in the program to feel the effort should be made to obtain that license. “It’s a life skill. We’re in the land of 10,000 lakes. It gives the children opportunity. They might not have someone else that would introduce them to the pool, and they might not end up being swimmers but at least they get introduced to the water. It’s good exercise and it’s just something to enjoy,” she said. Ahrens says the group also hopes that introducing a swimming unit to physical education classes would encourage more students to participate in Swim & Dive as a sport., noting that in the boys program there are around 20-25 participants, and the girls program has fewer than 30 participants. 

Board Chair Andrew Stenson encouraged the group to also get in touch with the Junior High and High School principals to follow up on the issue further and took no action on the request at this time.

Additionally, the board held the Truth in Taxation hearing to certify the levy first introduced in September. Since it was introduced, there have been changes that result in an approximate $2,000 difference. The overall levy went down 3.74% from last year. The general fund saw overall changes of a 1.69% increase, while Community Education saw the only increase on the levy, increasing eight percent. The district’s debt service went down as debts have been falling off, also contributing to the decrease. It was also noted that while Montevideo community members may have received their tax valuation notices showing a change in the amount of property tax owed in the next year, that the values are based on increases in the property value of their homes, and not on school district levies. 

During the Superintendent’s report, Superintendent Wade McKittrick noted that the school district has been looking to establish a minimum of 10% of funds set aside to cover unexpected expenses without causing a long-term impact on the district. “We’re just not there yet,” he said. “Last year was a step towards that direction. It is important to have from a stability standpoint. A solid fund allows us to get through the tough times.”

The board also motioned to accept gifts and contributions. There were a number of contributions ranging from a private donation for the new welding program to donations from individuals for scholarships. 

Further discussion was held on facility maintenance. As Superintendent McKittrick has been holding listening sessions with community groups on what their thoughts are regarding how facility upgrades and construction is handled in the future, one of the questions he says is asked most often is when another referendum is coming. The district approached a referendum at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that failed to pass a vote, however, they must at some point in the future address the issue of another potential referendum due to the state of some of the district’s buildings. “There are no plans right now, however, we need to start engaging in some of those plans,” said McKittrick. To begin the exploration process, McKittrick offered a suggestion for a company the district could work with to conduct a study on options for the buildings from a maintenance standpoint. “I think we need to be assessing our facilities from what we truly need and what we can fix that doesn’t require us to go out and build a new building. But on the other hand, are there things we need that do require us to build? The answer might be yes and it might not be,” he said. Superintendent McKittrick noted that he’d like the board to take time to consider the suggested company before the next meeting, and resume the discussion at the special meeting planned in December.