By Jordan Gerard

Editor, The Caledonia Argus

The Caledonia School Board approved an abatement bond at its regular meeting on Monday, June 22. The abatement bond allows the district to finance the cost of the parking lot project. 

After moving ahead with work on the middle school/high school parking lot, board members looked at how much the project will impact taxpayers, as presented byEhlers Public Finance Advisors.  

The estimated cost of the bond is $965,000 with a 6.5-year term, however, the total cost could change depending on the premium of the bond. The number of annual debt service payments is six and is effective taxes payable in 2021. Those levies for principal and interest payments is about $178,000 annually, and are eligible for a 55% school building agricultural credit. 

As for the impact to taxpayers, the estimated annual tax impact on a $100,000 home is $20; on a $75,000 home, $13. As for agricultural homestead and non-homestead, the estimated change in annual taxes from 2020 to 2021 is less than $1.

The board passed three resolutions related to the project: granting the abatement, providing for the sale of the general obligation tax abatement bonds, and establishing procedures for reimbursement of certain expenditures from proceeds of future bond issues or other borrowings. 

2020-21 budget

District Accountant Barb Meyer said revenue assumptions was $12,466,710, which increased from the 2019 revised budget due to student enrollment of 715. That increase was about $152,719. Expenditure assumptions was expected at $11,751,94. 

Meyer said those numbers were the “best estimates” for the district at this time. The board might need to look at the budget again near the start of school, she said. The audit will provide more concrete numbers, Meyer added. 

Other news

Besides the lengthy discussion about the abatement bond and budget, the remainder of the meeting was relatively normal for a June meeting.

The board approved an agreement to purchase education services from Hiawatha Valley Education District (HVED), and also ratified the hiring of Austin Stalsberg as a middle school special mathematics teacher. 

The board approved an increase of lunch prices for 2020-21 school year, which increased by 10 cents for all grades. 

Also approved was the bread product bid, which was awarded to Pan-O-Gold. The milk bid was awarded to Ziebell’s Foods and WW Homestead Dairy. Gasoline and fuel bids were awarded to Kwik Trip.

School board filing for candidacy was announced. The filing period is from July 28 to Aug. 11 at 5 p.m. Three board member spots will be up for election. Those include Jared Barnes, Spencer Yohe and Dan Small. 

Administrative reports

Elementary Principal Sue Link said as the end of the year approached, teachers were creative in saying goodbye to their students. Classes were also decided for next year and students were able to meet via Zoom with their new teachers. 

Link also reported the school was working to get more students on track in reading and math. Elementary Intervention Teacher Lindsey Meyer will be working with kindergarten through third grade to assist teachers and students in math and reading. 

The intervention team of Meyer, Leslee Oakes and Trina Scanlan asked the board to consider adding another interventionist to their department. 

Meyer said test scores have consistently declined over the past few years and it was important to “push into classrooms” and start when students are younger or else they won’t catch up, she explained. 

For example, 14 out of 40 kids in fourth grade are struggling with reading or math, but the problem is too many students and not enough interventionists, Scanlan said. When she joined the team in 1989, there were six people available to help students. Now, that number is cut in half and the need has gotten bigger, Scanlan explained. 

They also noted the lower test scores existed before the pandemic hit and distance learning took effect. Summer school does lessen the summer slide for kids, but for those who struggle more, they need “something more intense,” she added. No action was taken on the matter. 

Middle School/High School Principal Nathan Boler said he was “extremely proud” of staff, students and families for their work during distance learning. A survey was sent out to see what potential changes the program needed. 

Superintendent Craig Ihrke said the district has to be ready to have three scenarios for the next school year: on site, distance learning and a hybrid model. 

“It’s a challenging prospect, but we’ll see where we go with that,” he said. “Glad I have phenomenal  people to share this with. I think we will utilize each of the three models and go back and forth between them. I highly doubt it will be normal.”

Community Education Coordinator Gretchen Linzmeier said 16 students were signed up for 3-year-old preschool and 29 students were signed up for 4-year-old preschool. They were discussing different options for preschool and ECFE in the fall, depending on the guidance. 

T-ball and Peewees started on June 15. All participants had a waiver signed before they could start and so far, things are going well, she said. Kids were excited to have an activity. 

Next meeting

The next meeting of the Caledonia School District will be July 20, at 6 p.m.

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