NORTH CRAWFORD - The North Crawford School Board met for the first time with newly elected members Ed Heisz and Tanya Forkash participating. The two were asked to take an oath of office, and duly sworn in.
Next up, was election of board officers. Mary Kuhn was re-elected without contest to the position of board president. She nominated Jill Stefonek for board vice president, and Terry O’Donnell for board treasurer. Both were unanimously approved without contest. The board went on to approve Judy Powell as clerk, Jim Dworschack as Wisconsin Association of School Boards delegate, Tanya Forkash as CESA-3 delegate, and Jill Stefonek as correspondant.
Committee assignments were made. As Terry O’Donnell is now board treasurer, he will replace Jim Dworschack on the Finance Committee.
North Crawford Elementary Principal Amanda Killeen reported that there were quite a few bright spots, and a few challenges, to report about the virtual learning that has become the new normal for the last month-and-a-half.
Students have loved the connection that classroom zoom meetings and flipgrid have provided
“Younger students are becoming more independent in using SeeSaw, teachers reported they have learned a lot of new tools that they will be able to use next year, and collaboration between regular and special education has been strong,” Killeen told the board. “On the down side, we’ve had some issues with younger students being able to use the Chromebooks, and levels of participation in education have dipped slightly in the past few weeks.”
Killeen reported that she is executing against the board direction to evaluate and pursue upgrades in all the school’s curriculum. She has begun the process of looking at the literacy curriculum, working with teachers. She plans to apply for a grant that will allow her to order samples to allow teachers to try them out before making a purchasing recommendation.
North Crawford Middle School/High School Toby Tripalin provided quite a few updates about modifications to various end-of-year activities.
“My heart goes out to our 2020 graduating seniors and their families,” Tripalin said. “This is usually such an exciting time of year for them, and the pandemic has caused us to modify our usual celebrations.”
Tripalin said that the following measures would be taken to carry on with some of the typical celebrations and ceremonies:
• Wednesday, May 27: a video will be available on the district website showing seniors being awarded with their scholarships, and celebrating their accomplishments
• Thursday, May 28: the eighth grade promotion ceremony will be livestreamed, and a link will be available on the district website
• Saturday, August 1: the 2020 Graduation has been postponed, in consultation with seniors and their families. The district hopes by this date that it will be safe to gather in-person on school grounds, but the final decision to carry forward with the in-person ceremony will be made closer to the time, keeping safety in mind.
• The final day for seniors and other students leaving the district at the end of the year to drop off their devices and books will be Friday, May 29. When they drop off their district property, then they will be given their diplomas.
Tripalin also reported that he and his staff are engaged in “normal end-of-year” logistics with students. He said that the current virtual learning environment had made this typical undertaking just a little more complicated.
Student Services Director Cara Wood reported that her team has been very successful in delivering speech services over the Zoom platform. She said they have also forged ahead successfully with IEP meetings with very few technical issues.
“Like Toby’s team, we are trying to communicate a sense of urgency to our students about completing their work before the end of the school year,” Wood said. “Like everyone, the situation has been complicated by the virtual learning environment.”
Wood said that “almost all assessments have been waived by DPI.” The exception, she said, is the AP exams. She said a link for students to the site where they can take the exam had become available earlier in the day.
North Crawford Superintendent Brandon Munson told the board he didn’t have a lot of new updates since the board had met last. He said he had directed administrative staff to keep careful account of any unusual expenses that related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This information will, according to Munson, be used to apply for the district’s estimated $1-million share of the federal CARE Act funds.
“Other than that, my hat is off to our staff who have adapted and carried out education of our students in these difficult times,” Munson said. “It’s been a real team effort, and has been quite successful.”
The board approved a revision to the academic calendar for the 2019-20 school year as proposed by Munson. Originally June 2 was to have been the final day of instruction, with an early release for students. The new calendar identifies May 22 as the final day of instruction, with Friday, May 29 being the final day for students to hand in their school work.
“We envision the four-day week of May 26-29 as time for our teachers to work with students to finish out the work for the school year and complete grading,” Munson said. “It will also provide our staff time to evaluate virtual learning to see what went well and where improvements can be made.”
Munson told the board that he plans to reopen the school in the fall, but also must realistically acknowledge that virtual learning may have to continue in the fall depending on how things shape up with the pandemic.
Munson told the board that need for repairs to the district’s three athletic fields are needed, but that work on the ball field was urgent.
“Basically, our ball field is situated on a marsh, and even with as dry a spring as we’ve had, our maintenance crew got the lawnmower stuck out there,” Munson told the board. “We already had funds in our maintenance budget for this work, and combined with savings from the school closure, we can move forward with this project now since the field is not being used.”
Munson said that improvements were also needed to resurface the track with rubber, and re-crown the football field, and that the two projects are linked.
“Our asphalt surface on the track is in perfect condition right now to accept the rubber surface,” Munson told the board. “This is crucial, because that being the case is what will keep the project cost down. We can’t count on that situation contiunuing indefinitely.”
Munson said that the recrowning of the football field needs to be done at the same time as the track to avoid driving heavy equipment over the new track surface.
Jill Stefonek asked Munson about the resources available for capital improvement projects.
Munson replied that the district has a “very healthy” fund balance, and also has funds set aside for capital improvements that will likely become available soon. He said the other option would be to go to a referendum to increase the tax levy to make capital improvements.
“With some of the things I’ve been hearing from the state, I think the board needs to evaluate whether it might be a good strategic move to spend down our fund balance a little,” Munson said. “In the meantime, I’d like to see the board approve the work on the ball field.”
The board approved a bid from Showen for the work in the amount of $30,900.
Munson reported that Harry Heisz has become concerned about the condition of the district’s parking lots, and is looking at another option to make the current blacktop last a little longer. The board tabled a decision on resurfacing the parking lots to the next meeting when more information would be available.
The board also approved a donation of $1,000 to the Gays Mills Swimming Pool. Munson noted that a community group had been very successful with fundraising for needed maintenance of the pool, raising $85,000 of their $100,000 goal so far.
In other business
In other business, the board:
• accepted the resignation of Scarlet Wielander as the district nurse, and voted to hire Thomas Seland as the new fifth grade teacher
• approved health insurance for the 20-21 school year with a five percent increase
• approved contracts for purchasing services through CESA-2 at no cost, and a service contract with CESA-3 at no increased cost• voted to allow Munson to pursue a DPI waiver for hours of instruction requirements for the 2019-20 school year.