“It is exciting that we have 531 students that have signed up for our new Online School”, exclaimed Director of Business Services, Angie Manuel at the August 27th Big Lake School Board meeting.  “But even more so, we have 24 new students!”

Big Lake Online School provides virtual learning for the students along with support and coaching of the Big Lake teachers and the availability of participating in student activities and athletics.

The school is able to receive $766,686 in Federal Corona Relief Fund (CRF) Funds upon their application in October although funds must be spent in 2020. Their $258,679 in CARES funding can be spent over 2 years and Board member Amber Sixberry recommending using their technology expenses for these funds.

Manuel noted that student enrollments to date are 50 less than budgeted but area schools are reporting similar drops.   This may be due to home schooling, participation in Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO), or enrollment in other districts.  No layoffs are planned at this time but 2 open positions will not be filled until enrollment increases.

When asked by Board member Dan Nygaard about anticipated class sizes, Middle School Assistant Principal Keri Neubauer responded around 25 while Liberty Elementary Assistant Principal Teresa Smock-Potter noted 19-22.  Smock-Potter added that the same teacher will support for all students in a family enrolled in Online School.

Neubauer and Smock-Potter presented the revised student handbook which the Board approved.  Changes included updates with COVID-19 changes, their ELearning program with inclement weather, and their commitment to equity and non-acceptance of harassment or violence. Masks must be school-appropriate.  Student parking fees are waived to allow for fewer students on the buses.  Board member Mark Hedstrom reminisced that the prevention of students from bringing treats for their classmates had often been a highlight of the day.

In other school board news:

• Chair Tonya Reasoner recognized retired Community Education Director Brad Schnitzler for his 36 years of service in Big Lake. Schnitzler noted that one of the questions he asked those decades ago was if Big Lake was growing as the communities in west central MN were losing populations.  He has served 44 years as an educator.  Newly-appointed Director of Community Education and Communications Services Allen Berg thanked Schnitzler for his mentoring, knowledge and leadership.

• Superintendent Tim Truebenbach was “excited to watch the tennis and soccer practices after months of no activity.”

• Kindergarten enrollment is at 224, similar to 2018 but less than last year’s 237.

• Board accepted a donation from Coborn’s for $535.35 to help students in need at Liberty Elementary with fees.

• 74 staff and citizens observed the 40-minute meeting virtually.

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