With a delay in bus facility improvements, the Stillwater school board approved a second extension of the Stagecoach property where the district houses its bus fleet at the Aug. 22 meeting.

The board voted unanimously to extend the lease through Sept. 30. Director Jennifer Pelletier was absent.

Stillwater Area Public Schools (SAPS) Director of Finance Kristen Hoheisel said the month-long extension costs about $25,000. The district should not need to seek another lease extension, she added.

The developer is delayed on the completion of the district’s future Lake Elmo bus terminal property due to the Hudson Boulevard road realignment and the running of water and sewer lines. At the June 13 meeting, the school board approved a two-month Stagecoach lease extension ending Aug. 31.

The Washington County Fairgrounds also offered to house the district’s fleet for $5,000 through September. Although it’s cheaper, Hoheisel said the district will save money by keeping the fuel station in one spot. Additionally, the fairgrounds could not accommodate the buses the last weekend in September, she said.

The school board unanimously selected Directors Shelley Pearson and Tina Riehle to serve as board representatives for employee contract negotiations.

The board also unanimously renewed district memberships for the 2019-2020 school year to the: Minnesota School Board Association for $14,037, Association of Metropolitan School Districts for $11,364 and Schools for Equity in Education for $9,022.

During open forum, Stillwater Township resident Dianne Polasik made a second grant offer on behalf of the Lee S. and Dorothy N. Whitson Fund for school board members and SAPS Superintendent Denise Pontrelli to explore mediation.

At the Aug. 8 meeting, a motion to define parameters for mediation, paid for by a $10,000-$20,000 Whitson Fund grant, failed 3-3.

The new offer includes funds to cover one or two professional mediators to meet with the board and district attorney to explain how mediation could occur in an open meeting, how the board could set parameters and how board members can avoid sharing private data.

“I still see the board and administration stuck,” Polasik said. “The objective is to have a discussion.”

Polasik added the first offer is still on the table.

Assistant Superintendent Bob McDowell presented a report on Flex Days, e-learning opportunities the district could utilize if there are more than two snow days this winter.

McDowell said the plan will help avoid mid-year calendar reconfigurations, offer learning for all students on snow days and provide flexibility and continuity in students’ learning.

A new Minnesota statute allows school districts to operate five e-learning days per year due to inclement weather, McDowell said.

“We would still take our first two inclement weather days,” he said.

Like snow days, SAPS will notify families of a Flex Day by 5:30 a.m. the day of, McDowell said. If the board approves the plan, SAPS will notify parents of the Flex/e-learning plan by October each year.

At the elementary level, teachers would send home lessons prior to Flex Days. Student attendance is determined by assignment completion. At the middle and high school levels, student attendance is taken via Schoology or by assignment completion, depending on the teacher or student access to technology at home, McDowell said.

Teachers would also provide remote instruction during normal school hours, he added.

McDowell said the plan is particularly crucial for high school, which the state requires students to have 1,020 instructional hours per year. Last year, state legislators passed a bill relieving Minnesota school districts of time lost during the polar vortex. McDowell said the district can’t rely on that this year.

“We can take two snow days before we are in trouble at the high school,” McDowell said. “The day can be counted if we’re providing learning opportunities.”

Additional Notes:

Board Chair Mike Ptacek said the policy committee will bring a recommendation for a policy on open forum speakers to the Sept. 12 board meeting. The board recently changed the open forum guidelines from 12 speakers, who each had five minutes to speak, to 40 speakers who each have two minutes to speak.

The board increased the number of speakers after a controversial board decision at the July 11 meeting to seek a separation agreement with Superintendent Denise Pontrelli. At the July 25 meeting, nearly 40 community members and district staff spoke during open forum. The August board meetings each had less than 10 open forum speakers.

Contact Kim Schneider at kim.schneider@ecm-inc.com

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