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School district seeks to begin 2021-22 classes earlier
Seneca School District

SENECA - The Seneca School Board began a process to get state approval to start school prior to September 1-state law generally prohibits school districts from beginning instruction prior to September 1.

However, there are waivers to this rule and this year the waiver policy was loosened to provide flexibility in response to the COVID pandemic. 

Seneca followed the state’s outlined procedure for seeking a waiver and held a public hearing prior to the regular board meeting to get input on the proposal. However, no one beyond board members attended the public hearing.

The board then heard the proposed change under old business. Seneca District Administrator Dave Boland told the board that the district’s objective was to end the school year by May.

Boland also said the proposed calendar remains a draft document at this point. As proposed, classes would be held on August 30 and 31. Additionally, there would one less day for Easter break-reducing the time off from seven school days to six.

The calendar resulting from these changes means students would have their last day of class on May 27 and teachers would finish on May 31 with an in-service day, Boland explained.

It was noted that the calendar as proposed would not schedule classes during the Crawford County Fair, which was a concern of some earlier.

Boland noted there are five ‘snow days’ built into the calendar. He also explained the school had become adept at virtual instruction and could order it on a given day to avoid needing to take a snow day.

Seneca School Board President Mark Johnson moved to approve the calendar as proposed. The motion was seconded by Charles Clark and passed unanimously by the board. The calendar will now be submitted to the Wisconsin  Department of Instruction for approval of a waiver to start classes before September 1.

Under new business, the  board approved paying the accounting service that did the audit with a four percent increase over the previous year’s fee. Boland noted the price has increased three or four percent every year for the last 10 years.

Clark moved to approve the payment for the audit. Britany Joy seconded the motion and it was passed unanimously by  the board. 

Clark did take exception with the four percent increase every year, noting that over 10 years the price had increased 40 percent–far exceeding the rate of inflation.

During the district administrator’s report, Boland noted that the 2020-2021 school budget was doing really well this year.

Boland explained that one reason the budget was doing so well was the COVID relief funds known as ESSER funding. 

Elementary & Secondary Emergency Relief (ESSER) #1  funds brought $90,000 to the district. It was combined with funds from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) and the total for the district was $103,000. The district will spend the money in this fiscal year. 

ESSER #2 funding was announced in December and totaled $271,000 for the district ESSER #3 was announced in late March and will be $609,000 for the district.

The state advised districts to spend the ESSER #1 funds quickly on approved expenditures, according to the district administrator.

Boland said ESSER #3 funding will be a big chunk of money. However, he noted that state aid is based on how much a district spends and with all the federal dollars being received, the districts will be spending less and state aid could be down going forward.

The district also requested $6,000 and received $4,800 from FEMA targeted specifically to deal with the ongoing pandemic. The district spent the money on cleaning supplies and bottled water. Boland credited bookkeeper Sarah Sime with her efforts to secure the FEMA funding.

In other business, the Seneca School Board:

• approved a contract for educations services with CESA #3 for $48,030-the same amount as last year’s CESA #3 contract

• approved continued membership for the 2021-22 SWEEP agreement, a shared equipment agreement, with a group of local school districts

• approved giving teachers and support staff gift certificates to be used at the Seneca FFA Greenhouse, as part of teacher and staff appreciation week in May 

• learned high school graduation is scheduled for May 28 at 8 p.m., board members Mark Johnson and Brittany Joy volunteered to represent the board

• decided to have the district administrator survey eighth grade parents to see if they favored having an eight grade graduation ceremony

• approved holding listening sessions for students drivers, and staff on May 18 and for more staff on May 20

• learned the Spanish Club is planning a trip to Coast Rica in 2022 and will need to begin fundraising and planning

• decided the Seneca Area School District Monthly Recognition should honor Seneca students named to the Ridge and Valley Academic All-Conference Team including Kaleb Allen, Delaney Boland and Anya Aspenson–First Team Academic All-Conference; Taylor Eick–Second Team Academic All-Conference; and Nicole Trautsch–Honorable Mention Academic All-Conference

Following a closed session, the board met in open session and accepted the retirement resignation of third grade teacher Marci Payne. The district is pursuing filling the elementary school teaching vacancy.