School board holds work session

Mike Milbrandt

The Montevideo School Board met on Monday, July 20 for a special board work session. Due to continuing concerns about COVID-19, the meeting was held remotely, although persons interested in watching the proceedings could do so via a YouTube link.

The purpose of the board work session was to discuss the following topics: renewal of the current operating referendum; a potential bond referendum to address district facility needs; review a potential calendar revision to facilitate staff planning for the start of the 2020-2021 school year; and other topics related to the start of the school year.

In addition to members of the school board, ICS consultants Mike Hubbard and Pat Overom joined the meeting to discuss an analysis of the recently failed bond referendum. Dr. Luther Heller, superintendent of Montevideo Schools, said: “The analysis and discussion included a review of the process that was followed in developing the facility plan, a discussion of the factors that played a role in the failure of the bond referendum, and a brief discussion of options for moving forward.”

District voters went to the polls on Tuesday, April 14. Both questions on the bond referendum, construction of a new elementary school and construction of a new Fine Arts Center, were defeated. “Moving forward,” said Dr. Heller, “the board will determine the steps and timeline for addressing the district’s facility needs.”

Another topic which was discussed was the renewal of the current operating referendum. According to Dr. Heller, the current operating referendum stands at $156.76 per pupil unit. “That generated approximately $277,000 in the past fiscal year, of which $138,600 went to support our technology initiative. The other $138,400 went into general operational expenditures,” he said.

The district currently has a board approved levy of the following amounts: Tier 1 ($300 per pupil unit) - $530,700; Tier 2 ($424 per pupil unit) - $750,056; and a Total Local Optional Revenue of $1,280,756.

“The district is working with Ehlers, Inc., the district’s financial management firm, on the renewal and also on the tax impact of increasing the $156.76 to $250, and the $350 to $500 per pupil unit,” said Dr. Heller. “By the August board meeting, there will be an administrative recommendation respective to the operating levy renewal.”

The board also looked at a potential calendar revision to facilitate staff planning for the 2020-2021 school year. Currently, the district is waiting for the governor’s office and the Minnesota Department of Health to provide direction as to which of the three planning scenarios school districts will be using for the beginning of the school year.

“The administration is proposing that two student contact days be changed to two teacher days to be used prior to the start of the school year as additional teacher planning and professional development days in order to provide some additional time for staff to prepare for the start of the school year,” said Dr. Heller.

The last item to be discussed was the required use of face coverings by all staff, students, and visitors coming into all school buildings. Dr. Heller said: “This requirement will be included in student and staff handbooks, as well as on the district website. In addition, there will be a prescribed screening procedure to be followed when allowing a person access to the facilities.”

Each principal then addressed the board and provided an overview as to how they are addressing the start of the school year under the various scenarios. “So far, we have not had any indication from the state as to which of the three planning scenarios, in-person learning, distance learning, or a hybrid of in-person and distance learning, will be in place for the start of the school year. The expectation is that we will get that information during the week of July 27,” said Dr. Heller.

No actions were taken by the school board during Monday evening’s meeting. The next regularly scheduled school board meeting will be held on Monday, August 10.