Posted on

Gilman School District needs extra help with reopening of in-person classes

Paraprofessionals aren’t usually fulltime, but this opening school year, things will look different for many districts, including Gilman. During their regular meeting Aug. 17, the Gilman School Board approved a 44-week, full-time paraprofessional group, made up of five to six individuals.

“We cannot staff the building with part-time paraprofessionals, we are in need of every single one of those individuals to be full-time,” said superintendent Wally Leipart.

The group will be looked at annually, to see if it is still viable to have them at full-time in the district. The cost for one year is $75,000 to make the paras fulltime, but because the school has received $178,000 in CARES Act money and has a special education flow-through, along with some surplus funds, the actual impact would be $35,000 on the budget.

The group would be restricted to 30 hours.

“We are at a point, where it is not effective to operate with just part-time paraprofessionals,” said Leipart. “We have a need, we have the opportunity… to make this pretty much cost neutral in our budget.”

With the paras coming on as full-time, board president Bruce Ewings asked if the district would be required to provide a single plan of insurance. Leipart said that is correct, that the district would credit for a single plan, but the individuals would be eligible if they wish to buy their own family plan.

Leipart says he figures some of the paras will not take the full-time positions, because of other responsibilities.

Members also approved the hourly employee wage schedule, as Leipart shared the estimated economic impact for increasing hourly wages. The figures are based on looking at the wages of neighboring districts and districts of similar demographics.

“This is definitely within the scope of our budget,” said Leipart.

Gilman’s goal was to put $121,000 in the fund balance, which was surpassed by an equivalent amount to cover realigning the wage schedule to meet the average within the area.

“There is flexibility within the budget to be able to do things like this, to meet some of our lowest wage earners in the district,” said Leipart.

The employees’ CPI would also increase every year, as determined by the board.

“So, they’re always getting a raise,” said Val Kulesa, board clerk.

Also approved, was purchasing fuel for the 2020-21 school year, from Medford Co-op for 79 cents per gallon, as they are not requiring the school to purchase 60,000 gallons of fuel if the school would need to close for an intermittent time. Ferrellgas also quoted 79 cents a gallon, but they will not let the school purchase more than 45,000 gallons. Chippewa Valley Energy also submitted a quote for 87 cents per gallon for 60,000 gallons.

“The market is super volatile right now,” said Leipart, “because people know that whether it’s us or businesses, they don’t want to go to their markets and purchase all this fuel, just for us to shut down and put our building on 52 degrees. They have no place for this fuel to go and they’re obligated to take it.”

The board also approved a resolution, authoring the issuance and sale of $937,000 in general obligation refunding bonds.

“Again, this is a refinance of the energy efficiency project,” said Leipart. “We anticipated a $20,000 savings, it’s just over $21,000. The interest rate came in a little bit better than we anticipated.”

Members also approved the eSucceed hires of part-time kindergarten teacher Amy Canfield; part-time elementary teachers Renee Chandler and Christi Machler; and part-time social studies teacher Scott Sabel. The board also approved recruiting two part-time assistant cooks and two paraprofessionals.

Also accepted, was the resignation of paraprofessional Sherri Malchow.

Leipart reported that the eSucceed Charter School, of which Gilman is a member, has 120 full-time students enrolled. The school won’t have an accurate part-time enrollment until Sept. 1.

“So, that’s really exciting,” said Leipart. “That really puts us in a strong financial position for the charter school.”

Also discussed and acted upon, was permission for Leipart to pursue a county resolution, to get clear title from the county for the school forest parcels. Leipart said it would be nice to create actual school forest trails, that can be used, but says they do not have seed money. He said there shouldn’t be a reason the school couldn’t let go of the land, if the county agrees.

“It’s not like our region lacks managed land,” he said.

Leipart said having a nice school forest property, would provide diversity in the surrounding forestry, with a level that’s manageable, such as 80 acres.

“You have to do stuff with it, otherwise, nature takes it back,” said Leipart.

Board member Darrell Thompson said if the land is sold, they could reinvest into school trails that students and the public can use.

“And get the kids involved,” he said.

Ewings said he just wants to make sure any money from potential sales is used for the enhancement of trails and would not disappear into the General Fund. Leipart said the school could designate that the money would be put in Fund 46, with use for long-range planning.

Members were in agreement to approach the county and see what can be done about the parcels.

“That would be in the best interest of this district and everybody in it,” said Thompson.