By Jordan Gerard

Editor, The Caledonia Argus

A trip to Germany offers students the chance at international travel, immersing themselves in a different culture and connections with other students, as the Houston School Board gave their consensus for approval at its regular April 1 meeting.

The official approval will come at the April 15 meeting, but since students can get a discount of $200 if they sign up before April 30, Minnesota Virtual Academy (MNVA) German Teacher Karla Gotham asked for a consensus in order to get information out quickly. 

The trip will be hosted for students and adults through EF Tours, a company that MNVA is familiar with. The trip consists of 11 days traveling by bus throughout Germany, visiting cities such as Berlin, Dresden, Munich and several historical sites. Trip dates are June 13-23, 2022. The cost for students is $4,520 and for adults is $5,070. 

“One of my goals as a German teacher is to help students find ways to experience the culture of Germany,” Gotham said. She added the goal with this trip and future trips would be to boost the German program. She also hopes to get College in Schools for German next year, which means if students take the class, they fulfill a foreign language credit, get college credit and can go to Germany. 

Superintendent Krin Abraham commended Gotham for two students who scored high on the national German exam. One student had the top score in Minnesota while the second student earned the third highest score. 

“You don’t get the top in the state without quality instruction,” she said. 

Principal reports

MNVA principal Angela Specketer said March was a good, busy month with data meetings that will analyze and compare student growth against desired growth. Abraham added that teachers were really diving into the data and that was driving much of the decision making. 

She also noted a student from MNVA had been featured on KTTC and KIMT recently for their success with online learning. 

MNVA will hold its graduation online on June 6, as they were unable to find a venue willing to accommodate a large number of people, even with the relaxed rules. 

High School Principal Michael Mangan wished a congratulations to the girls basketball team on their season and state run. 

Prom is still being planned out and currently looks to involve grand march outdoors, dinner onsite at the high school and entertainment onsite. Most recently, the guidance encouraged schools to give out three-foot long pool noodles to students to ensure they are socially distanced. 

However, teenagers with pool noodles is likely not the best combination, so the dance portion of the evening is still in planning stages. Abraham said the committee is still going through the guidance. Graduation is also in the planning stages as well. 

Mangan reported students are making great progress in targeted services. Each student has an individualized plan in the program. He thanked media center paraprofessional Mrs. Flatin and student success center paraprofessional Mrs. Krage for their help in meeting students where they’re at. 

Elementary Principal Richard Bartz reported MCA testing would begin April 6. Testing will occur over an hour each Tuesday and Thursday so students can take a break from screen time, as the test is computerized. 

Smart Boards on carts are being assembled and have began moving them into classrooms. 

Preschool registration numbers saw about 30 kids for the three-year-old section and 28 kids in the four-year-old section. 

He also reported the elementary student assistance team is working on summer learning plans to reinforce grade level standards for students who score in the lower 10th percentile on the spring Fastbridge test for reading and math. 

COVID update

Abraham said the county number for cases is hovering right above 10 and that trend looks to continue for a while, with a possible bump in cases. Houston had its first increase in cases since Feb. 25, with an increase of five cases. One elementary class was under quarantine until April 6. Abraham reminded that prom (May 1), DC trip (May 16) and graduation (June xx) were right in a row, and the district should work to ensure that none of those events become a spreader event. 

ESSER II funds were released and Houston received $194,331 in ESSER II 90%, which is enough to cover the HVAC project in the kitchen. Houston did not receive ESSER II 9.5%, because the state ruled both schools could not receive both funds this time around. 

Other news

The board discussed the city lease for the high school ballfields for summer rec, and discussed installing a camera system upgrade at the high school. Both of those items will be on the April 15 agenda for approval. 

The board also approved job postings for summer school special education teacher and summer school general education teacher positions. 

Next meeting

The next regular meeting will be April 15 at 6 p.m. in the high school library. The school board has a special board meeting on April 8 concerning the superintendent search.

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