There are plenty of things folks would like to forget about the past pandemic school year, but some good things did come out of it, according to school administrators and educators.

A couple of those have been discussed at recent Waconia school board meetings and were shared last week with parents in a letter from Superintendent Pat Devine.

One is distance learning. Some students have embraced the online learning approach, educators note, and families with students who want to remain in distance learning will have that option in the 2021-2022 school year.

Design teams from School District 110 and partner SouthWest Metro school district, serving member districts in the region with special programs, are creating a K-12 online school. The district expects to have a catalog of options for parents to check out by July, and will be sending out a survey soon to determine student interest and staffing needs.

Tiered busing

Tiered, or staggered bus schedules also were initiated during the pandemic to separate students and limit contact. The school district is currently working with Koch Bus Company on logistics and a plan to offer tiered busing again in the fall.

Some benefits include keeping elementary and secondary students on separate buses, school officials note, as well as less traffic congestion and fewer buses operating at any one time.

Exact timing has yet to be finalized, but elementary students are expected to start and end their day a little earlier, while secondary students will start and end a little later, according to Devine. The tiered approach is anticipated to be cost neutral.

Preliminary school budget

Regarding finances, the district finance office has started to prepare the budget for the upcoming fiscal year which starts July 1. The preliminary budget is based on educated assumptions about expenditures, revenues and student enrollment numbers.

One of the biggest unknowns at this point is what the state legislature will decide to do in terms of school funding, according to Devine.

There are several other factors, he adds, but at first glance the district appears to be in a strong financial position, thanks largely to voters passing an operating levy last fall. That should enable the district to draw down its statutory operating debt by at least $1.5 million.

“This is great news for ISD 110,” Devine said, “as many districts across the state are facing budget shortfalls due to COVID.”

The District 110 administrative team and school board are expected to have a preliminary budget recommended in June.

Random Act of Kindness Day

Thursday, May 13, was Random Act of Kindness Day in District 110. Each year, the district has designated the day to share acts of kindness in remembrance of Devine’s sister Ann Devine, who passed away several years ago.

“Ann had Down Syndrome and was the brightest light in the family,” Devine said. “Every part of her was kind, bringing joy and love to everyone she met. In a year like we all are going through we need to show love and grace to each other more than ever.”

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