School board passes preliminary levy at 3% increase over 2022 – Wadena Pioneer Journal

WADENA — The Wadena-Deer Creek School Board passed a preliminary 2023 tax assessment of nearly $2.19 million, a 3% increase from the current year.

The increase was actually a 3.98% drop as previously forecast. The drop could be attributed to a projected increase in enrollments in the school district, according to Superintendent Lee Westrum.

The school district is benefiting from an increase in enrollment this year. It was estimated to have started at 1,050, but according to a report from Westrum, 1,068 students were last registered in the district. That’s an increase from 1,019 in May 2022.

The certified tax amount will be approved following the Tax Truth Hearing scheduled for December 19, 2022, where the public will have another opportunity to comment on the tax.

The School Board briefly discussed and approved a plan to continue using eLearning days on a case-by-case basis. They reviewed a parent survey that found about two-thirds of parents favored the inclement weather option.

In the event of a school closure due to inclement weather, expectations for all WDC students can continue through an eLearning day. This day refers to a school day when, instead of coming to a school, teachers and students communicate online or set prior learning expectations and students continue their learning from home. On an eLearning day, teachers share assignments and hold office hours to help students learn. An eLearning day counts as a student contact day.

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Due to intense winter weather events, the county utilized all five of its eLearning days last year. The middle and high school principal, Tyler Church, hoped there wouldn’t be five more days like this in a year’s time.

Westrum found that an eLearning day is not a substitute for a face-to-face day.

β€œIt certainly does not correspond to a school day. But it preserves the school calendar,” Westrum said. Adherence to the school calendar is also paramount for residents in the borough to avoid having classes continue into June, Westrum added.

An eLearning day is not a full day for students, but they are expected to put in 2-3 hours of active learning and complete their assignments within a week of the eLearning day. Teachers must be available throughout the school day. Preschoolers are not required to complete any activities in an eLearning day.

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School board members had several questions about the plan, which was unveiled last year. There have been concerns that all students will still be able to access hotspots if they don’t have internet access. This is an option for students. Another problem was that some students did not complete the assignments. It has been found that those who do not complete work online are also typically those who do not complete work in the classroom.

A poll found that 58% of participants wanted to see a return of eLearning; 27% not; and the rest didn’t care. Westrum felt the 2:1 ratio in favor was a solid number to move a plan forward.

Other key points of the plan:

● Teachers must be available both online and by phone during normal school hours on an e-learning day to assist students and parents.

● Parents, students and staff will be notified at least two hours prior to the normal start of school that students must follow the e-learning schedule for that day.

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● Accommodation for students without sufficient access to the internet, hardware or software in their homes. (School administrators, teachers and other staff continually work with families to ensure equal access to online learning resources, including the distribution of “hot spots” or alternative resources when possible.)

One thing against eLearning is that it pushes the district to make it harder for people to hack into their system. As the type of authorizations increases, it can also make it more difficult for students to access the programs they need.

In other actions, the Board approved the hiring of the following positions:

  • Doug Dutke, communications assistant; Naomi Hess, paraprofessional elementary school teacher; Jil Fiemeyer, Girls’ Tennis Head Coach.
  • The board plans to hold a board working meeting on Wednesday, October 5 at 5:30 p.m. to discuss plans to upgrade the facility.
  • The Board plans to collect the election results on Wednesday 16 November at 12.00 noon.

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