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Abby K-12 to receive 75% grant for dome

After months of waiting, the Abbotsford School District finally learned that it qualified for a FEMA grant totalling over $2 million.

The funds will be used to build a multipurpose dome, similar to one that’s being built in Spencer. The district hopes to use the dome both as a storm shelter that would house over 1,800 residents, as well as for possible classrooms, as superintendent Sherry Baker anticipates the district’s student population will continue to grow in the coming years.

“We may make modifications to this plan, and we may not have more multiuse space, but have six classrooms there,” Baker said. “With new apartments coming up, we could potentially see more students coming into the district.”

The grant will pay for 75 percent of the cost, but the district must pay the other 25 percent, estimated to be just over $700,000. The grant comes as some- thing of a mixed blessing at this point in time, Baker says. With the onset of COVID- 19, and economic impact of the “Safer at Home” order, Baker is anticipating school funding to be significantly lower for the 2020-21 school year.

“We are looking at four different scenarios for revenue for next year because we do not know what’s going to happen,” Baker said. “We’re looking at a $2.2 billion deficit in the state of Wisconsin . . . and the two highest areas of expenditure in the state are schools and Medicaid. Schools are a little easier pocket to pick.”

The district’s 25 percent match for the structure itself does not include ineligible costs such as furnishings, paint, desks or carpet.

The district intends to discuss the dome at greater length on Tuesday, June 23, at 5 p.m. in a joint finance and facilities committee meeting FEMA grant writer Jordan Buss of JBAD Solutions will be there to help determine the floor plan as well as sources of funding for the project.

The district has 36 months, beginning on May 29, to complete the exterior of the structure.

“This is a great problem to have and I hope you don’t view it as a terrible thing to deal with,” Buss said via Zoom on Monday. “Whatever you identify as your greatest need, this is a way to kind of make that happen.”

Summer school decision made

The school board passed a motion Monday that will give parents of students attending summer school the option of in-person instruction or virtual learning with Chromebooks provided by the district.

Elementary school president Gary Gunderson said the district surveyed over 160 families, asking for their opinion regarding three different summer school options — online instruction only, face-to-face instruction or a blended approach of the two. Gunderson said 86 families preferred face to face instruction, while 75 families were in favor of continuing to use online instruction.

Superintendent Baker and high school principal Ryan Bargender said all public health recommendations from the CDC and Clark County Health Department, such as social distancing and face coverings, will be observed.

Parents will need to sign a waiver before students can star in-person summer school sessions, which run from July 6 to July 31.