During a meeting on Tuesday night, the Bismarck School District Board of Education adopted updated COVID-19 quarantine guidelines and the latest budget, as well heard a report from School Resource Officer Scott Lahay.
Just released on Monday, the board members approved the latest quarantine modification from the St. Francois County Health Center, which allows a close contact of a positive case to return to school during their quarantine period if they are asymptomatic and wear a mask for 14 days after their last exposure.
“The purpose of this is to keep as many kids at schools possible,” Superintendent Jason King said.
King said they’ve had anywhere from seven to 55 students out at one time for quarantine. As of Tuesday, they had 23 students out.
“So it’s going back and forth,” he added.
Although the new guidelines won’t fix everything, King said, it is a logical step instead of having to implement a full mask mandate.
“It does have the real potential to keep more kids in school, while having a safe environment for them,” King explained. “And that's the purpose that’s behind it. I am not anti-mask. I'm not for masks. I'm for kids.
"I’m for kids being in school, for them being here learning in the environment that they need to be. And I think we've seen that kids being out of school and going virtual and doing different options is not a good situation for them. It has not been effective across the state or across the nation.”
Board member Melinda Dugal asked how the district planned to handle lunch, when students would need to remove their masks. King said they would come up with a plan to separate the students who are in their quarantine period.
“I'm glad that the health department has put it out for people to be able to adopt,” Dugal said. “I think it's a great thing. And it shows that they care about the kids being in school, also.”
These guidelines will go into effect for the district on Monday.
During the meeting, the board also approved the budget for the 2021-22 year.
King said the district has 45 full-time staff members, one part-time certified staff member, and 31 classified staff members.
He walked through some of the highlights of the budget.
There is $85,000 in the budget for capital improvements.
“Capital improvements are always a big part of our budget,” he said. “That's the annual roof maintenance, bleacher inspections, and HVAC maintenance.”
King added that the $30,800 payment for the HVAC lease would end in 2023.
For technology, $95,000 is budgeted for various software and equipment. There is also $35,000 for laptops and docking stations for the staff, as being able to work remotely is becoming a necessity.
“We're very fortunate that there's not an additional $70-75,000 budgeted for technology,” he continued. “We are fortunate because we've been able to spend a lot of our ESSER (Elementary and Secondary Education Relief Funds) money on technologies and to kind of get ahead of the game on things.
"We were fortunate to order a tremendous amount of Chromebooks for our kids well in advance of most districts around us. And because of that, we have Chromebooks when we still have some people who are waiting on them. So we've been able to do that and that's helped us a lot.”
Other items included in the budget: $11,000 for band equipment (payment will also end in 2023); $8,000 for library books; $8,500 for textbooks; $12,000 for the ACT and various college courses for the students; $55,000 for UniTec tuition; $65,000 for professional development (which is required to be 1% of the annual budget); and $450 per staff member for their Christmas bonus.
Last month, the operating and debt service levy was set at 4.2271.
“We are running 30 cents in Fund Four for capital projects, which is going to generate a little bit more revenue from assessment to go to that fund,” King added. “You will see that there is a fund transfer being forecasted of 6%. That's approximately $200,000 to be placed in Fund Four and that'll meet our requirements for Fund Four transfers.”
The state is forecasting $6,375 as the state adequacy target for students.
“But we have to be cautious with that,” he explained. “That could change. There have been times, over the years, where that's cut, sometimes out of nowhere. And then sometimes they get back to where it needs to be by the end of the year.”
Overall, King said they are going to continue to be cautious with spending and adding staff.
“We're in a pretty good spot and not seeing anything from horizon that we should be concerned about,” he added.
In his report, Lahay told the board that they haven’t had any issues when patrolling on campus this year.
“It’s been really smooth sailing,” he said. “So I’m hoping now that I said that, I didn’t jinx myself.”
As far as daily attendance calls, he said those have drastically dropped over the past couple of years.
He said they’ve already had one intruder training session with staff members and will have another with staff and students together.
They’ve also put together a safety team, which is new this year, to help students with issues they might be having at home or at school.
Lahay also mentioned several events they are working on, including the free hunter education class on Oct. 18 at 5:30 p.m. and the combined Trunk or Treat and Haunted School event.
During his report, King told the board that the all-school reunion this month was a success, despite lower turnout numbers, which they did expect with the pandemic.
State Senator Elaine Gannon was inducted into the district’s hall of fame at the reunion.
“It was a neat thing hearing her talk about the impact that Bismarck had on her and just putting her and her brothers and sisters on the path to success,” King said. “It was really nice to hear that.
"She was absolutely thrilled. You would have thought that she got the Congressional Medal of Honor or something. That’s how excited she was to come back home and be a part of this.”
At the beginning of the meeting, the board members honored the September students of the month, Kaylee Camden for elementary school and Halie Dickey for high school.
In other business, the board:
- Approved several policy updates.
- Approved the summer school report, which Elementary Principal Katie Martinez said served 65 students from May 24 to June 15 for credit recovery purposes.
- Approved increasing the amount paid to umpires for high school baseball to $95 per game.
Nikki Overfelt-Chifalu is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.