The Albia School Board met Monday, Oct. 11 for their regular meeting with all members present.

The board first approved the agenda, and minutes of the last meeting before approving the payment of bills totaling $307,267.06. This included $15,462.23 in Activity Fund and Trust and Agency Fund claims, $2,584.93 in Café Fund claims and $51,140.53 in SAVE fund claims among others.

The board heard from guest administrator Richard Montgomery and two high school juniors about MVP, Mentors in Violence Prevention, a relatively new program to the Albia School District. The program was funded through a Stop the Violence grant the district received about three years ago.

Montgomery and other staff attended a two-day training on implementing the program and it started last year. Each year 20 juniors take a day of training in how to deal with difficult situations they come across, like bullying, vandalism, peer pressure and more.

The school currently has 20 senior and 20 juniors trained in the program. The juniors’ training took place a few weeks ago. The students in the program also to into junior high classes throughout the year and teach the students about what they have learned and lead them through different activities and scenarios to discuss how they would deal with them.

The students talked to the board about how the training has given them actual strategies to deal with tough situations they come across and how it has also made them think about situations differently and evaluate their opinions about different topics. They also said the program wants to make younger students more comfortable with older students, rather then being intimidated by them.

The students ran the board through a short exercise where they asked them to respond to the prompt, “Social media promotes violence and negativity” by holding up a sign that either said, agree, unsure, or disagree. The board split between agree and unsure. The students then had a few board members talk about why they answered how they did while bringing up some positive examples of social media use. This was an example of one short activity they might do with the junior high students as an icebreaker before teaching a lesson.

The board approved the purchase of property at 601 B Ave. East for the price of $75,000. The property, owned by Gene and Gail Jaeger, is abutted on two sides by property the district already owns. Superintendent Kevin Crall said the district has no immediate plans for the property but it could be incorporated into future plans.

The board tabled the Return to Learn plan again. The plan addresses the district’s response to COVID-19, and they haven’t made any changes since reviewing and approving the plan right as school began. Superintendent Crall said the district has seen a surge of cases in staff and students this year, more so at the elementary level, versus seeing more cases last year in upper grade levels. Crall said he hopes the peek of the surge has now passed.

The board approved personnel action items as presented. This included the resignation of school nurse Carrie Selby, contracts for Darren Hill as junior high girls basketball coach, Lynnette Major as school nurse, and Billy Strickler as junior high boys basketball coach, employment for Kenny Peterson as custodian and Mary Jo Fugate as an aide, and approval of volunteers, Allison Boswell, Tabatha Bricker, Jacob Calhoun, Lisa Crow, Laura Duey, Curtis Graham, Erin Hall, Kristy Hass, Stephanie Kingery and Amanda Prevo.

The board heard from Terry Dvorak, CEO of Red Lion Renewables, about the possibility of installing solar panels at the school district. Dvorak said he had analyzing the district’s electricity use and had been having discussions with Chariton Valley Electric Cooperative to see if a solar project would be beneficial to the district. Dvorak said that he would need to continue analysis and discussions with the coop before making any recommendations, but he was hopeful something could be done.

Dvorak said the way his business works, is that the equipment would be owned by an LLC set up by Red Lion with Dvorak and other investors. The equipment would be financed through investors, loans, and government funding. The school district would purchase the electricity generated by the solar panels and after five years, the district would have the option to purchase the equipment. Dvorak said each year after that the district would be given the option to purchase the equipment. After 25 years, the district could make a final decision about purchasing the equipment or they could have it removed by Red Lion. But Dvorak said he wouldn’t move forward with a project unless I made financial sense for the district and the investors. The board will revisit the idea during their next meeting when more information is available.

In other business:

• The board approve the board policies up for review.

• The board looked at preliminary numbers for certified enrollment. The deadline to certify enrollment is this Friday so numbers are not final, but as of Monday, Albia was down at least 10 students from last year.

• Dr. Bianca Myers from Indian Hills Community College spoke to the board about the upcoming bond vote on Nov. 2 that IHCC is seeking to pass to make improvements throughout their college campuses and 10-county area.

• The board discussed raising substitute pay and the possibility of offering bonuses for substitutes that work at least a certain amount of days each year in the district. Superintendent Crall said he would bring back something for the board to vote on next month.

• The board briefly discussed the first meeting of the infrastructure steering committee. They plan to try and meet every two weeks according to Superintendent Crall.