SENECA - It was another social distancing meeting for the Seneca School Board Monday night. Board president Mark Johnson and board member Larry Kelley participated virtually online via Zoom.
The five other board members and school district administrator Dave Boland gathered at six-foot plus distances in the school’s band room.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic loomed large in almost every conversation the board had, there was some good news mixed into it-like the report on the school’s food service program.
Seneca increased the prices of lunches by 10 cents last year, even though the federal formula suggested they would only have to raise the price by three cents per lunch, according to Boland, the district administrator.
Nevertheless, by March, the dime per lunch increase was not enough to keep the program financially in the black. By mid-March, the food service program was running a deficit of around $10,000. However, when the students were sent home to be ‘Safer at Home’ in March, the lunch program turned around.
Although the district assessed the financial situation as troubled and was anticipating losing money on food service last year, once the students were sent home to study online, the federal reimbursement went to a higher rate at which summer lunches are remunerated. Additionally, the requirements placed on food service were relaxed. The result was an economic turnaround.
The program, which continues to serve 200 meals per week, is $5,000 to the good. Since March, the lunch program has made up about $15,000 and continues to operate in the black.
This program should continue running as it is for the rest of the summer and will be even more solvent when the school year starts.
Due to its new found profitability and plenty of uncertainty about what will happen in the fall when school is scheduled to resume, district administrator Dave Boland advised the board to leave the lunch prices where they are.
Board member Tyler Aspenson moved to have the lunch prices remain the same for next year. Kelley seconded the motion and the board passed it unanimously.
Of course, the pandemic forced the cancellation of the senor class trip. District administrator Dave Boland contacted the company contracted for the trip and sought a refund of the $9,000 that had been prepaid. Ultimately, the company involved offered a $2,005 cash refund and a $6,900 voucher to be used for a future trip.
Boland noted there would be no chance for a future class trip for the class of 2020, which had raised the money.
Luckily, the class advisor kept detailed records of what each student had raised to finance the trip.
Boland proposed that the school district pay the $6,900 for the voucher to the class of 2020 and then use the voucher on a future class trip. He also proposed the class use the money like scholarships–giving it out to students responsible for raising it after the successful completion of a first semester in college, tech school or another training program.
Board member Chad Sime moved to implement such a plan and Britany Joy second the motion. The board unanimously approved the plan to purchase the voucher from the class and allow them to distribute it as if it were scholarship money. The board also discussed an early graduation request from a student, who will be a senior next year. The student explained in a letter that she was requesting to graduate early so she could begin working to save money to attend a nursing program at the University of Minnesota-Rochester in the following fall.
Boland made it clear that student was a good student with good grades.
Several board members including Charles Clark and Chad Sime initially indicated that they would see no problem allowing the student to graduate early.
Boland pointed out that early graduation was granted in the past to allow students to start their post-high school education or training–not to work to raise money to start it at a later date. He pointed out that this student could use the second semester to finish the chemistry course she would ultimately need and also take college courses paid for by the district that she could use going forward.
Board members Rachael George and Britany Joy agreed that the student be advised further in a meeting with the school counselor and others about the options she had at the school for the second semester.
Joy moved to table the early graduation request until a meeting could be held with the student.
In other business, the Board of the Seneca Area School District:
• approved open enrollment applications for two inbound students and one outbound student
• approved six students for classes in Star College Now and Early College Credit–the programs have replaced what was formerly known as Youth Options
• approved a property insurance policy with Tricor that included a four percent increase in the premium
• approved another year of membership in the Wisconsin Association of School Boards at the same price as last year–noting that every school district in the state was a member
• renewed membership in Shared Purchasing Solutions–a buying consortium of schools, hospitals and other institutions
• learned in a budget report that federal Title 1 & 2 funding was probably going to increase and Title 3 & 4 would probably stay the same
• learned the employee health insurance plan through Quartz would increase by five percent, but there was overall satisfaction with the price and services provided
• received an update on three bids to replace copy machines in the district
• approved giving the Seneca Area School District Monthly Recognition Award to the food service employees for their excellent work under trying circumstances supplying carryout food to students while they worked online from home during the COVID-19 pandemic
• discussed options for the district when school is scheduled to start in the fall
• hired Cheryl Groh for a cleaner position
• hired Misty Lemon-Rogers as the business education teacher
• accepted the resignation of ag teacher Kally Koch, who accepted a similar position at Riverdale• hired Ashley Roberts and Jenny Fisher to fill the spirit coordinator position