By Jordan Gerard

Editor, The Caledonia Argus

With graduation looming over Caledonia High School seniors, the school board is determined to give them “something that is somewhat representative of what they’ve seen in the past.”

Middle School/High School Principal Nathan Boler said they’ve considered using the football grandstands and field for the ceremony. Seniors might be seated in the bleachers while family members (with potentially limiting the number of tickets) could sit on the track or field. However, no official decision has been approved yet but the district is exploring alternative options.

“Guidelines from Gov. Walz will dictate what is an option,” he said. 

Student board representative Noah King said “a lot of people are just hopeful we’ll get to do something.”

Both King and second student board representative Sam Privet gave an update about how students are doing with distance learning. 

Last week marked four weeks since students started distance learning. Privet said they’re starting to get the hang of everything. 

“For the most part, everyone would rather be at school with their friends...” he said. 

King added Schoology was helpful in determining what students needed to do every day. 

Hires/resignations

The board accepted the resignation of Gina Meinertz as the elementary principal/curriculum director and thanked her for six years of service to the district. 

That position was replaced by Susan Link, who had previously served as the interim elementary principal this past year. 

The board hired four teachers including Tristan Jenson as the full-time middle/high school special education teacher, Austin Bauer as the full-time middle/high school mathematics teacher, Robert “Robbie” Sobczak as the full-time middle/high school social studies teacher and Ryan Bunting as the full-time middle/high school science teacher. All positions were pending Minnesota licensure. 

The board also accepted the maternity leave request of Amanda Schulte to begin about May 30. 

ACT testing

The board approved a motion to pay or reimburse a student’s ACT test fee, whether they take the test in the summer or Oct. 6, 2020. The board will only pay for one test, not both. 

Students may wish to take the ACT test in the summer to allow a score to submit with an early admissions application, Community Education Coordinator Gretchen Linzmeier said. If the student is going to apply by the regular deadline, the October test would suffice.

Other news

Elementary Prinicpal Susan Link thanked parents, grandparents, daycare providers, teachers, supprot staff, paraprofessionals, counselors, special education teachers, behavior specialists, office staff, Superintendent Craig Ihrke and Boler for all of their efforts during distance learning. 

Since going into distance learning in March, 100% of all materials for students were either picked up or delivered. Attendance was high and students are excited to see their classmates and teachers on Zoom, she added. 

They’ve also met a few unexpected goals while doing distance learning including getting parents and students comfortable with technology by explaining instructions and giving step-by-step demonstrations; getting internet to students in remote areas, whereas a few students have family members with internet access and providing paper copies; using one platform to communicate with parents; and helping parents support their students during distance learning.

Boler added he was working on a survey for parents to give their feedback on the recent changes. The 2020-21 schedule for middle school and high school is finalized and Boler was also working on an online registration system for students. 

No Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) will be given this year, as per the Minnesota Department of Education. “Junior Day” has been postponed and planning for the remainder of the year is either on hold or awaiting information.

Of the postponed events that normally take place at the end of the year, Boler said they “hope to replicate these in the best way possible but we’re waiting for guidance from Governor Walz.”

Linzmeier said preschool teachers were offering weekly Zoom meetings and activities. The School Age Care (SAC) and Surround Care programs were going well with an average between 5 and 12 kids attending per day. 

Ihrke reported the school district has served about 400 meals a day, which actually doubles to 800, as there is a lunch and breakfast meal in each bag. 

He also reported educational assistants were working with students academically and emotionally and also checking in to see how they are doing. About 95% of students are engaged in distance learning. Staff has increased their efforts to reach students who are engaging less and helping them to do their best, he said. 

Next meeting

The next meeting of the Caledonia School Board will be held May 18, at 6 p.m.

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