Edgar OK’s bus contract add on
School board splits 3-2, however, after Lewis makes complaint
The Edgar Board of Education last week Wednesday voted 3-2 to approve a contract addendum that lays out how the school district will pay Fischer Transportation, Fenwood, for bus service while school is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the modified contract, Edgar Public Schools will pay the school bus company 85 percent of the contracted amount for regular route service and, should the company win a federal Payroll Protection Program forgivable loan, the company will issue the school district a credit for that amount.
Board members Corey Mueller, Tess Kaiser and Suzanne Wolf voted for the addendum. Board members Gary Lewis and Bill Dittman voted no.
Currently, Edgar Public Schools pays Fischer Transportation $45,395 per month for regular route transportation. Eighty-five percent of that amount is $38,586. The transportation contract is silent in regards what the school district owes the bus company in the event that school is closed. Last year, the district paid Fischer Transportation the contracted amount for bus travel despite a record number of snow days.
In the approved addendum, Fischer Transportation will not be paid for special education busing, field trips or co-curricular events.
Board member Gary Lewis said Fischer Transportation should receive 30 percent, not 85 percent of its contracted amount during the time that school is closed due to the pandemic. He said that the company had no wear or tear on its buses and wasn’t paying its employees. District administrator Dr. Cari Guden clarified that while the company said, at first, that it would lay off its bus drivers, it now continues to pay these employees. Lewis said the company would earn a profit should it earn a Payroll Protection Program forgivable loan, but Guden, repeatedly, told the school board member that the district, not the company, would get the federal money if awarded.
Guden said the contract addendum was negotiated by herself and also superintendents from Marathon and Athens school districts, where Fischer Transportation is also the bus vendor.
Guden said school boards all over the state were wrestling with the question of what they should pay bus vendors while school is closed. She said Wausau and DC Everest school districts were paying their bus vendors 100 percent of the contracted fees, while most other districts in Wisconsin were paying in the 70 to 80 percent range. In other school board business:
_ Administrator Guden said the Edgar food service continues to serve 440 daily lunch and breakfast meals to students who pick them up curbside. The lunch items include corn dogs, salads, peanut butter sandwiches, tacos and hamburgers. “The program just keeps going strong,” he said.
_ Guden said custodial staff is urging the school board to allow a private contractor to remove asbestos tile from several classrooms while school is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
_ Administrator Guden reported on a survey of parents concerning distance learning. With 107 responses, parents gave the school staff high marks for communication and said the workload expected of students was appropriate. Eighty-four percent of parents said they had the needed technology for distance learning. A slim majority said that e-mailing parents was the best way to communicate with them.
_ District bookkeeper Morgan Mueller said district savings during the school closure will prove crucial to what the district’s fiscal year deficit will prove to be. She said that “life is crazy” now but that the school board needed to continue to have a discussion whether to run an operational revenue cap referendum in the November general election.
_ Administrator Guden said the district had five students open enroll into the district and 12 open enroll out. She said that seven of the 12 had never attended Edgar Public Schools. She reported that a baseball team trip and a student trip to Europe were both postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
_ Elementary school principal Lisa Witt said summer school plans had been finalized, but it was unknown whether school would open during the summer months.
_ High school and middle school principal Tom McCarty said he had developed several options concerning student grading that the school board could act on in May. He said it was generally unfair to grade students in the normal way because some students had better home environments and computer technology. He said classes for the final quarter of the school year could be graded as pass/fail and incomplete with, possibly, there being a grade of “pass with distinction.” He said these grades could or could not affect a student’s grade point average.
“High school principals are struggling with this,” he said. “The current situation is really inequitable and this quarter can’t be counted the same as the last quarter.”
_ Board members approved teacher contracts for the 2020-21 school year. Pay rates will be decided in June. Board members went into closed session to discuss nonrenewal of a district employee but took no action after coming out of the session.