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Colby board to reconsider grad date at next meeting

Although the superintendent believes a July 2 graduation is “highly unlikely” at this point, the Colby School Board approved a plan Monday that tentatively sets that date as the first choice for graduates to receive their diplomas.

The plan also includes Aug. 13 as a backup date, as recommended by the district’s administrative team.

To make sure the public is informed well enough in advance, the board also agreed to make a decision at its June 15 meeting on whether or not postpone graduation until Aug. 13. The board will also decide at that meeting whether or not to have in-person summer school and community education classes in July.

Superintendent Steve Kolden said a survey was recently sent out asking about summer school options, but he believes families are suffering from “virtual fatigue,” and would only want inperson classes, if anything at all.

“Not many people have the stomach to do summer school online with their kids when they’ve already been doing it for a third of the regular school year,” he said.

If all July’s activities are cancelled at the June 15 meeting, the board will consider rescheduling them at its meeting on July 20. Besides graduation and summer school, the board will also make a decision about fall sports practices and staff in-service at that point.

Board members also discussed various options for handing out diplomas while practicing social distancing, such as having graduates drive-up one-by-one in the parking lot.

Kolden said this option is being discouraged by public health authorities because it could result in large gatherings of friends and family members coming to see the graduates up close.

Board member Eric Elmhorst said he likes the idea of having the ceremony on the football field, not only because of the summer heat inside the gym, but also because it would allow for people to keep their distance from one other.

Ultimately, Kolden said a lot of the district’s decisions will depend on the recommendation of the Clark County Health Department. He said the district’s legal counsel and insurance agent have both advised him to rely on county officials when making event decisions.

_ The board accepted the resignation of high school tech ed teacher Meghan Walters, and approved the hiring of Hannah Engevold as middle school special education teacher and Terry Schmitt as varsity girls basketball coach.

_ During a discussion about the 2020-2021 budget, both Kolden and Brian Zaleski said they are trying to keep expenses flat or find ways of cutting because of an anticipated decrease in state aid.

Kolden said the state is projecting a loss in tax revenue of between $2.5 and $3 billion, so any kind of budget repair bill is expected to have a major impact on state aid for schools.

The preliminary budget presented to the board next month will likely include recommendations to delay certain purchases and discretionary spending.

“Anything we can put off for a year we probably will,” he said.

The district is expecting to end this fiscal year with a surplus because of decreased operational costs, so it could roll some of that money into a special fund for future capital projects.

_ The board approved a 2.65 percent base wage increase for the district’s teaching staff. The percent increase is applied to the entire pool of employees’ wages, and then divided equally among those employees.

_ The board approved a $2.4 million budget for the district’s health insurance, HRA reimbursements, retiree benefi ts and dental insurance in 2020-2021.

_ The board renewed the district’s contract with E.O. Johnson for printer and copier services, with a $2 per month increase over the current contract.

_ The board renewed the district’s agreement with the Abbotsford School District, which hosts the Falcon Enterprises Alternative School. Kolden said the $75,500 cost is split between the two districts based on how many credits are attempted by students from each district. The cost for Colby is currently $37,000.

Since FEAHS is now located within Abby’s K-12 campus, Kolden had previously considered setting up an off-site classroom space for Colby students who don’t do well in a traditional school setting. However, he said that would require the district to hire a full-time teacher and a full-time aide on its own.

“It becomes cost-prohibitive to do it our own,” he said.