School Board counts snow day as instructional day, as per Gov. Walz’s relief bill

Jordan Gerard

The Spring Grove School Board had a tough decision to make on Monday, April 15, as a snowstorm on April 11 pushed them under the statutory requirement of 165 instructional days.

But they seemed to breathe a sigh of relief after they chose to count a snow day as an instructional day for the purpose of counting hours and days in the school year, as allowed by Gov. Tim Walz’s snow day relief bill.

The bill was signed into law on April 1 and allowed schools to choose several options in order to meet the required days. The law only applies to the 2018-19 school year. Districts were encouraged to adopt an e-learning policy.

The last day of school will be June 4 with the day ending at 1:30 p.m.

Spring sports transportation

The district came across a dilemma concerning transportation for spring sport co-ops shared with Caledonia. 

If there are seven students out for co-op sports, the district will pay to have a bus transport the students to and from practice. Parents have been responsible for getting kids to games or meets. 

Before the season started, there were enough kids to make that happen, but now there are fewer than seven. However, those kids have been riding the bus to Caledonia for practice. They are all under driving age.

It costs the district $52 round trip for a bus and $40 for a school van. 

“It sounds like they’d have to quit the sport if we don’t have transportation,” board member Stephanie Jaster said. 

Board member Jenny Stender agreed and said she didn’t feel comfortable taking the transportation away from the students. 

The board agreed to let the transportation continue for the season.

Superintendent Rachel Udstuen added it would not be allowed to happen for next year and that the official number of kids in co-op sports would be counted if they paid their activity fee.

Principal’s report

Principal Nancy Gulbranson reported 36 future kindergartners attended Kindergarten Round Up. She thanked teachers Erin Becker and Jill Bjerke, student teacher Samantha Steele, staff Karen Fried and others for helping in the day.

The next step for the young learners is Kinder Prep Academy.

Testing season started April 2 with the ACT test and Accuplacer test for juniors. Other grades were working on Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment testing, and the testing was “going quite smoothly.”

Academic Excellence will be held for qualified students in grades 9-12 on May 20 at 10:30 a.m. at the Spring Grove Cinema and then Doc’s Blue Moose for lunch. Alumna Carla (Haugstad) Crepeau will be the speaker.

Finally, K-1 teacher Jill Bjerke made a presentation to the board about her first year with a combined age class of kindergartners and first graders.

“Everyone needs to understand this is all ability levels, not high and low,” she said. “It doesn’t really look that different.”

She cited benefits of the class were having students for two years instead of switching teachers. Students are able to know her expectations and rules and the class culture stays more even.

It also gives her the benefit to know where her students are academically and jump right in with them, instead of spending time reviewing.

For the students, it gives them an opportunity to help each other learn and lead.

“It helps those younger kids who may not have a voice,” Bjerke said. “They praise each other.”

She expressed a need for math support in the elementary, such as creating a space like the new Math Learning Center, which is used just about all day.

The space would be smaller, but would have options for learning as a group, small group or one-on-one coaching.

Bjerke also said she needs more prep time to prepare two curriculums. She rotates between kindergarten and first grade standards. 

After kids spend two years in that class, they receive all the necessary standards they need to advance to the next grade.

Board members liked the progress of the K-1 class, and could consider more multiage classes in the future such as third and fourth or second and third.

“It makes sense to me,” board member Kelly Rohland said. “Sports are multiage. They already know everyone. Age isn’t a big deal to them.”

Gulbranson added it’s a fact of life that kids will eventually work with different age groups, especially when they enter junior high and go on to careers.

Superintendent’s report

In addition to discussing the snow day relief law and the spring sports transportation issue, Udstuen said she received results from the school-age childcare (SAC) survey. 

The results showed support for a SAC program. Udstuen asked board members Stender and Rohland to assist her in planning policies for the program to make sure the district would not be at risk.

Other business

The board approved a nonrenewal for Kaitlin Bratland, who will work as a special education teacher until the end of the year, which is what the position was advertised as. Udstuen said she was doing a “fantastic job.”

They also approved the resignation of Maintenance worker Tom Pecinovsky, who was hired in January. The board thanked him for his months of service.

The board added another paraprofessional, Aly Meyer, to meet student needs for the remainder of the year.

Finally, the board approved the resignation of Brianna Johnson, fifth grade teacher, who is relocating to San Diego.

Well if there’s an end date for this school year, there’s a start date for the 2019-20 school year, which is Sept. 3. 

There are 174 student days next year, provided bone-chilling cold, wild blizzards and crazy April snowstorms do not take away nine school days again.

The board approved Mr. Carpet, Inc. to install new carpet in the Media Center for $14,404.51. 

They also approved $3,400 from local option revenue to install storage cabinets and a locked cabinet in the office’s new illness room. 

Teachers requested a locked cabinet in order to store curriculum and prevent it from being lost over the summer.

Next meeting

The next meeting of the Spring Grove School Board will be May 20, at 7 p.m., in the Media Center.