The stress and frustration the Albia Community School District administration is facing as they attempt to meet deadlines and guidelines from the Iowa Department of Education in reopening schools next fall was evident at Monday’s school board meeting.
By July 1, the district must submit a “Return-To-Learn” plan to the DE in three areas: All Virtual, All In-Person and a Hybrid (combination of in-person and online instruction).
Superintendent Kevin Crall tried to “stay out of the weeds” with the board in describing the work his administration and a committee of parents and teachers are doing, particularly #8 on a list of 10 steps that includes defining teacher and student expectations, identifying delivery platforms, communicating the plan, quality professional development and student and parent access to resources.
He said one of the most difficult and frustrating aspects of this planning is in the area of transportation. “Transportation is extremely difficult,” he said. “You really can’t have social distancing unless you have 12 or less students on the bus. That just doesn’t work.”
It’s possible that the district will have to eliminate in-town pick-up of students to meet state goals.
He also discussed the fact that many children don’t function well with on-line learning. “We’re way ahead of other districts because we have our 1+1 learning and Chromebooks, but there are kids who don’t have Internet access and many more who just don’t function well on-line. And we know it’s not good for kids to be in front of a screen all day.”
Crall told the board he just didn’t have a lot of answers at this time. “We’re all hoping that things are back closer to normal the nearer we get to the start of school and we can work through this with social distancing.”
He did discuss what a hybrid plan would look like and also said they had discussed the idea of every-other-day classes if necessary for in-person learning.
Great fine arts bids
By far the best news of the night came from the bid opening for the fine arts building project. Garling Construction had the low bid on the estimated $2-$2.4 million project with a bid of $1.25 million (which included a somewhat controversial canopy on the main entrance of the high school). Other bids were just as good, ranging from $1.269 million to $1.47 million. Seven companies bid on the project.
The board had a discussion on whether to save $24,000 by not adding a canopy that may well be removed in a few years if further construction takes place at the front of the building. Cindy Cronin, Linda Hoskins, Mallory Stocker and Mark Robinson all felt the canopy would provide protection from the weather for adults getting into the high school and for students waiting for rides. Craig Ambrose didn’t like the idea of building it only to have it removed in five or six years and felt the money could be better spent on developing the practice field or building a tornado shelter. The board voted 6-1 (Ambrose no) to accept the low bid with the canopy.
In other action items:
Resignations were accepted from Justin Long, high school girls track coach, Mindy Stalzer, Lincoln Center secretary, Rebecca Yoder, para-educator, Dave Wenger, junior high cross country and Melissa McDonald, kitchen assistant. Contracts were approved for Jessica Brady, Color Guard sponsor, Felicity Eward, Blue Pride sponsor and Ally Steines, prom sponsor (shared).
The board accepted the low bid for food service management from Opaa! Food Management. Cooks will remain on staff.
The board also accepted the master school calendar, voted to accept a recommendation from the school’s auditors to take a $140,000, six-year, 3 percent loan from First Iowa State Bank and People State Bank in order to provide necessary cash flow for the upcoming school year. The board also approved a change order for the high school HVAC project (which is progressing rapidly), and the handbook for the new At-Risk Dropout Prevention Plan (see story next week).