By Jordan Gerard

Editor, The Caledonia Argus

After surviving three months of distance learning and successfully ending the 2019-2020 school year, the Caledonia School District is anxiously awaiting guidance from the state on what plan school districts will implement for the 2020-21 year.

Superintendent Craig Ihrke said the board, committees, staff and administration have been “kicking a lot of different things around.” Guidance is expected on Thursday, July 30.

“We want to give people a heads up, but we don’t know ... it’s not that we haven’t discussed multitudes of options,” he said. “We do have different plans available.”

The specifics of those plans were not revealed during the meeting in order to avoid confusion or speculation, but Ihrke said if school started tomorrow, they would be able to have a plan in place.

Parents are also anxious to know what environment their students will be in, either in school, distance learning or a hybrid model, Elementary Principal Sue Link relayed. 

“Elementary students are so dependent upon an adult for their learning,” she added. “Parents shared what they would want to see and would like to know as soon as possible.”

Ihrke commented how fast information changes from hour to hour, and even a difference was seen between the start of a meeting and the end of a meeting. 

He added the school consulted with architect Brian Boelter (BLB Consulting)in regards of how many students can be in a room at the same time, how to move people around and maintain social distancing. Boelter also provided maps with social distancing numbers for each room in both buildings.

School board member Dr. Dan Small asked how the district would keep kids safe in school if the kids did not see the adults of the community modeling behavior appropriate for COVID-19 measures. 

“How can we keep kids safe if the adults are not modeling behavior for students?” he asked. 

Ihrke said the administration had discussed mask-wearing as well, but did not say what stance the district would take. Parent Dana Kruckow said she would be in favor of a hybrid model, at least for the first semester. 

The district does have a plan to provide an online option for students that may not be able to attend in person for a variety of reasons, he added.  

The board set a special meeting on Monday, Aug. 3, at 6 p.m. to discuss COVID-19 re-opening procedures for the district. The first day of school is set for Aug. 24. 

Administration reports

In her report, Link said elementary teachers chose a new math curriculum: Ready Math, which came with high ratings, she added. The new curriculum will be used across all grade levels from kindergarten to fifth grade. The special education department is also looking forward to new math curriculum with Number World Intervention, which will be for grades K-12.

Middle School/High School Principal Nathan Boler said the administration is reviewing all guidance and recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Education, Health and Center for Disease and Control (CDC). He hoped to be well-prepared when finalizing school year plans.

Community Education Director Gretchen Linzmeier said they will be able to offer child care to all families. Children of emergency and healthcare workers will have priority, as long as the facility can stick to social distancing guidelines. 

She also announced they were working on the fall class catalog and are collaborating with area community ed. programs for online classes. 

Other news

The board accepted the resignation of Connor McCormick as the junior high football coach and the resignation of Mitchell Mullins as the head girls’ golf coach.

The board approved the employee and elementary handbooks, but tabled the decision to approve the middle school/high school handbooks, as board member Jared Barnes asked if the open campus/leaving the building policy could be reviewed.

The open campus lunch policy allows seniors to leave during their designated lunch period if “a parent or guardian excuses them AND will be coming to the school building to pick them up,” but Barnes said a parent picking them up shouldn’t be required, especially if a parent works in La Crosse or if the senior has a driver’s license. 

He added parents have also expressed wanting a change in that policy. 

The board also approved a resolution awarding the sale of the tax abatement bond for the parking lot project. 

Another approval continued the agreement between the City of Caledonia and the school district for crossing guards for State Highway 44/76. 

Also approved was the Long-Term Facilities Maintenance 10-Year Revenue and Expenditure plan. 

Ihrke and Office Manager Karen Schlitz were named as the identified officials with authority.

School board candidate filing dates for the general election runs from July 28 to Aug. 11 and forms are available in the district office. A $2 filing fee is required. 

Next meeting

A special meeting will be held Aug. 3, at 6 p.m. in the auditorium to discuss the plans for the 2020-21 school year. The next regular meeting will be Aug. 17, at 6 p.m.

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