Kingsland workshop reviews referendum, reductions, enrollment

By : 
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy
Spring Valley Tribune

Kingsland’s School Board dealt with a wide range of topics, including the operative levy referendum, program cuts, enrollment and the school calendar during a workshop held last Monday, March 4. 

The district is preparing for its operating levy referendum that will be posed to voters in November as part of the general election, and discussion at the workshop centered for some time on how the question would be presented to district residents, as language that explains what the board’s intentions are must be clear. 

The board voted during the February meeting to approve a per pupil operating levy amount of $1,142 to be brought before taxpayers during the election because Kingsland is aiming to bolster its operating funding to avoid going into statutory operating debt, the condition in which the state takes over the financial operation of a school district until it becomes solvent again.  The $1,142, if approved, would be put on the books for the next 10 years, but the district could choose to revisit its financing before that time to stay afloat. 

Possible reductions

An annual resolution to approve recommendations for reductions in staff and programming was passed at a previous meeting, and Kingsland Superintendent Jim Hecimovich introduced the administrative recommendations for reductions, citing that there were few at this time. 

“The possibility is reducing the third section of fifth grade going into sixth grade, but that will naturally reduce itself when those sixth graders go into seventh grade,” Hecimovich said. “We’re looking at deficit spending about $60,000, and we have a healthy professional development fund, but after that, we’ve got tough decisions next, like what programs to cut — Project Lead the Way (PLTW), Spanish, ag, industrial tech?  We’re a two-section school district, so what’s left to cut?  (Kingsland Elementary Principal) Scott (Klavetter) and his team are doing well working with Action 100, and now they’re working on math.  One of the grades is two sections and one is three sections — there’s a difference of three students, approximately.” 

Klavetter registered, “There are other ways we can address those things — if we just look at numbers, we can go either way.” 

 Enrollment flat

Business manager Amber Uhlenhake Herbrand offered insight on the district’s enrollment and finances, items that are interrelated due to the number of students garnering the district more or less state aid.  She informed the board that enrollment is expected to be flat, and board chair Jackie Horsman concurred.

 “In my last talks with (community education coordinator) Becky Bicknese, we anticipate about 41 kindergarteners,” Uhlenhake Herbrand commented. “Right now, I think district enrollment will be about 524, and unfortunately, that’s lower than projected.” 

She had very little to report, except that she’s been reviewing options for the district’s capital fund and working on details of the next fiscal year.     

Construction project

In other discussion, Hecimovich gave an update on building and grounds news, with an update submitted by building and grounds maintenance director John Dols and a briefing on the upcoming construction that will take place this summer to install a column and beam system to support the building and to update the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.  District officials are meeting with Knutson on Tuesday to go over the bids with department heads. 

“SACC (school-age child care) — there’s not going to be air conditioning in the building, so what will be our game plan?  We don’t know how much of the Café will be ripped up and whether there will be no food service.  There’s only about nine weeks away from ending this year — it’s done on the 17th (of May),” said Hecimovich.

Board member Tiffany Mundfrom wanted to know, “Is using one of the churches possible for SACC?” 

Hecimovich replied, “James Leonard has already approached us for using Valley Christian Center for our workshop, but we’d be using a kitchen and preparing food, and we have talked about the restaurants doing that.” 

One of the board members suggested that the dietary department at Spring Valley Living might be a possibility to supply meals for SACC participants. 

Hecimovich went on, “We’ll move Title I to the high school conference room, and they’ll begin work in April on the beam and column system.” 

District capital funds registered in the building’s maintenance and technological advances, as the district has been working toward installing a camera system around and inside the school building to keep an eye on students’ safety as they go about their school days. 

“John Dols is willing to give up his capital fund equipment purchase money that he’d use to buy new things — not for maintenance — for cameras and replacement,” Hecimovich reported. “The cameras and system are estimated to be about $40,000.” 

School calendar

The school calendar came up next, as snow days and the summer construction project have given board members and administration reason to adjust the 2018-2019 calendar.  Also, the 2019-2020 calendar was on the table because the district must coordinate with the Southern Minnesota Education Consortium (SMEC) to ensure that students who are part of SMEC programs in other districts are able to attend their programs. 

Hecimovich talked first about how the district plans to make up extra snow days because the board had considered the subject during the February regular meeting, including possibly taking up early out Wednesdays in March and April to compensate for days off. 

“We’re looking at starting on March 13, all early outs in March and April, kids will be in school instead, but we’ll retain May 1 and May 8.  That time is used for professional learning communities (PLCs), and the staff finds their PLC time so valuable that they’ve agreed to meet from 3:20 to 4 p.m.,” he told the board. “It’ll require an agreement with the union because it goes by the contracted day, but this would be seven Wednesdays.” 

The next day, district residents were informed that school on March 13, 20 and 27, and all four Wednesdays in April will run from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., eliminating the early-outs originally scheduled. The first two Wednesdays in May will retain an early dismissal while May 15 was originally scheduled as a full day.

The note to district residents stated that this will result in a gain of more than seven instructional hours, equivalent to more than a full day of instruction.

In discussion on the calendar, board members learned that the district is responsible for transporting students to the schools within SMEC if a district does not have school, but a student needs to attend a program that particular day.

“We have a common calendar for transportation purposes,” Klavetter said. “If we don’t have school, some of the students who attend a program in LeRoy — our transportation department still has to provide it on the days we have no school.” 

Child care needs

Horsman introduced new information about the proposal that Spring Valley economic development director Cathy Enerson had brought to her attention about a partnership between the Economic Development Authority (EDA) and the school district to develop a child care center, a matter that had been given time and study in the past three years, when the district had better financial standing.  She remarked that the board had once again been contacted by Enerson and the EDA regarding a visit to a board meeting to outline how a district-operated daycare center could be opened and benefit the school. 

“I initially told her that now was not a good time because we’re working on an operating levy, and that once we got the operating levy up and running, we could think about it,” Horsman said.  “I asked her to give me a letter, and it said that they aren’t asking for any money, but they are.” 

Hecimovich noted that the school had previously looked at the old clinic and the former Alco building. 

Horsman continued, “Right now, we’re at a point where we’re not meeting the needs of our preschool and up students.” 

Board member Maranda Emig commented, “You’d always lose money.  It’d have to be something that would support itself.” 

Horsman noted, “All the education of the staff, the pay…it didn’t pan out.  I think it’s important to work with the cities of Wykoff and Spring Valley, but we have our own mission first.  I understand there is a need.” 

Board member Leah Stier added her observation: “There is a need, but I wish they could find someone to take that initiative.  They need an entrepreneur.”   

Curriculum, tech updates

Curriculum updates and replacement of students’ tech devices ensued, and the superintendent cited that some teachers have the opportunity to continue using curriculum supported by online lessons, while others are seeking only to replace parts of their curriculum, such as the high school English department’s need for replacement sets of novels that are assigned reading. 

“We’ve been renewing math for four years now, and so far, they’re still supporting it,” Hecimovich said.

Klavetter stated that the lower grades’ carts of iPads are now becoming obsolete and that it is thought that purchasing laptops for the upper elementary students to use and moving the newer iPads that those students had to the lower elementary might be an option for upgrading iPads. 

 “If we decide to keep iPads, we could replace the oldest iPads, or you can get laptops for the sixth graders,” he said.       

Vaping concerns

Student board representative Zachary Queensland shared about his efforts to address vaping in the school, relating that Fillmore County Public Health educator Brenda Pohlman had come to present an assembly for the high school students.

“Brenda Pohlman did a splendid job.  She had a powerful presentation with props, and she was interactive with the students,” he said. “I think they are starting to take this seriously.”    

Head lice policy

During the reading of district policies, board members and Klavetter addressed the district’s head lice policy and how attitudes toward the discovery of a student having head lice have changed.  Klavetter spoke about guidelines that have been adjusted, saying, “It’s not a health issue, but a nuisance.  Parents can come to the school and treat the child if they choose to.  The CDC’s health guidelines have changed, but the stigma hasn’t.” 

Hecimovich remarked that the district has historically mitigated head lice by sanitizing lockers, but that the recent take on that action is that the chemicals used to sanitize lockers exposes students to more hazards than the head lice. 

Conversation turned toward protocol that now allows students to finish the school day, instead of being called out and sent home for discovered lice, something that has caused students embarrassment. 

Board member Kyle Rader posed a question in his statement: “I’m wondering if we’re not overregulating this issue?” 

Hecimovich said, “I think all the teachers and staff are trained, and we have bought treatment kits for families that can’t afford them.” 

Board member Natasha Howard, who is a nurse, spoke up. “Some insurances cover head lice treatment.  Not all, but some of them do,” she said.

The board concluded that attempting to spare students embarrassment is as important as stopping the migration of head lice from student to student. 

Personnel recommendations

Personnel matters included previewing the hires that will be brought for approval at the regular meeting, including Erik Bicknese as junior varsity baseball coach, Kevin Geer as junior high baseball coach, John Fenske as varsity softball coach, Laurie Hendrickson as junior varsity softball coach, Al Williams as junior high softball coach, Brent Kohn as varsity golf coach and Paul Eckheart for junior high golf.  Ashley Lane is resigning as SACC assistant. 

The March regular board meeting is set for Monday, March 18, at 6:30 p.m. in the Kingsland choir room, with the next workshop on the calendar on Monday, April 1, at 6 p.m. in the elementary conference room.  The public is welcome to attend.  For more information, log onto the Kingsland website at www.kingsland.k12.mn.us or call the district office at 507-346-7276.