Budgets and financial numbers also were the focus of the regular Waconia School Board meeting last Thursday evening, April 16.

The board approved a long-term facilities maintenance budget and a capital programs budget for 2020-2021.

The facilities budget, projected at $460,000 includes a package of building maintenance projects, plus health and safety projects such as a gamut of annual inspections, from checks on fire sprinkler systems and to health inspections of school kitchens, intended to make sure things are working right to protect students and staff.

The capital budget, set at about $1.2 million, includes funding for capital expenses such as equipment and technology, curriculum development, scoreboard payment and city street assessments. Those expenses are not part of the operating budget, they are funded through other aid and levies.

The board also authorized an LED lighting retrofit contract with Noble Conservation Solutions for projects at several school district buildings to improve lighting and save energy. Total cost of the projects is just over $1 million. With utility rebates of about $225,000, the overall cost to the district is slightly less than $845,000, with estimated energy and maintenance savings calculated at over $150,000 per year.

The work could begin as soon as May with students potentially out of the buildings, with completion targeted by mid-August.

In other business, the school board authorized an extended field trip to Washington, D.C. for a high school government class in January 2021 to observe the presidential inauguration and other government institutions. Also, a trip next summer for the Spanish Club to Argentina and Chile, if travel restrictions due to COVID-19 are lifted by then.

With regard to coronavirus impacts, Superintendent Pat Devine highlighted the “impressive start” to distance learning, and thanked students, parents and staff for making it work. While classrooms were originally slated to reopen May 4 following Gov. Tim Walz’s shutdown orders, Devine noted that the district is getting hints from the state that distance learning could be extended to the end of the school year. Given that scenario, district administrators also are considering alternative options for spring and senior events, he said.

The board also swore in and welcomed new board member Ken Varble, who was appointed to fill a vacancy left by resigning board member Tabitha Laumann. In line with state shelter-in-place orders and social distancing guidelines, the meeting was conducted via teleconference.

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