Braham School students social distancing

Becky Swanson’s 10th grade world history class was social distancing and wearing masks during instruction. Photo by Sarv Mithaqiyan

Braham Area School District has had to make cuts over the past several years to keep its income and spending budget afloat. The district’s goal is to run efficiently and make improvements in the budget during the fiscal year.

“When I got here in 2015, we were in financial trouble,” Braham Area Schools Superintendent Ken Gagner said, alluding to the condition of the district’s budget five years ago. “We were barely staying out of what’s called statutory operating debt. And so it’s been a goal of the board to try to get us back to a healthy position financially.”

In November, Braham School Board will meet with auditors for an official assessment of the district’s budget. Gagner said the district’s statutory operating debt calculation should be a little over 15%, which auditors will have to confirm in the upcoming months.

“It’s kind of like taking the temperature of your school district to see if you’re healthy,” Gagner said about the purpose of the statutory operating debt calculation. The School Board and administration want the statutory operating debt calculation to be at 20%, which is a goal they’re working to accomplish in the coming years, he added.

Most of the school funds go toward paying teachers, staff, secretaries, paraprofessionals, food service, custodians and administration, Gagner said.

“So our primary focus is to make sure students get a great education,” Gagner said. “It’s not to save money. But in a perfect world, we want to give you a great education and make sure we’ve got enough funds to pay the bills. So it’s kind of a balancing act.”

Adjusting learning models amid coronavirus pandemic

Following the Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 policy for K-12 schools, the Braham Area School District has been able to administer in-person learning for all students. However, beginning Monday, Sept. 28, grades 8 through 12 transitioned to hybrid learning, because Isanti County’s COVID-19 cases have been climbing.

As of Sept. 17, Isanti County’s COVID-19 case rate was 8.72, but that number scaled to 10.52, according to MDH’s Sept. 24 data. The guidelines set by the Minnesota Department of Health for K-12 schools, which are based on the number of COVID-19 cases per 10,000 people over a 14-day period, include:

• In-person learning for all students at 0 to less than 10 cases.

• Elementary in-person learning, middle/high school hybrid learning at 10 to less than 20 cases.

• Both hybrid learning at 20 to less than 50 cases.

• Elementary hybrid learning, middle/high school hybrid learning at 30 to less than 50 cases.

• Both distance learning at 50 or more cases.

In an online update, Gagner said the district is expected to administer the hybrid learning model for at least two weeks. The breakdown of the hybrid model includes:

• In-person school day ends at 2:30 p.m. and students leave 30 minutes earlier than usual.

• Grades pre-K and K-7 attend school every day.

• Social distancing rules apply.

• Eighth graders engage in distance learning and attend in-person classes every Tuesday.

• Ninth graders engage in distance learning and attend in-person classes every Wednesday.

• Tenth graders engage in distance learning and attend in-person classes every Thursday.

At the end of the Sept. 21 School Board meeting, when Braham School Board members discussed the possibility of transitioning to hybrid mode for grades 8 through 12, dissenting voices were heard. However, Gagner said the district will do the right thing for students, parents, teachers, staff, administrators and others.

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