by Samara Postuma
The St. Michael-Albertville School Board discussed concern about potentially higher class sizes for some elementary school students.
The board also heard concerns about homework related to internet access, and discussed the hockey arena improvement project.
During open forum, elementary school parent Hollee Saville asked the school board about the possibility of the class sizes changing at St. Michael Elementary next school year. “As a parent, I’m concerned about my child going from a class of 20 to a class of 28 in third grade,” she said, noting that she had spoken with Supt. Jim Behle earlier in the day.
With future budget cuts looming there are tentative plans to reduce one section of third grade at St. Michael Elementary next year.
“There’s a slightly lower class size in second grade with class sizes around 19-20 due to some turnover at the beginning of the year,” Supt. Behle said, explaining that the other elementary schools already have slightly higher class sizes. Big Woods Elementary School currently has class sizes of 27-28 for third grade.
“The superintendent proposed to us next year’s staffing levels and we approved them at this time,” School Board chair Doug Birk said. “We are forced into balancing projections and we are in the middle of setting parameters for next year,” he added.
There will be a school board workshop to further discuss on March 31. A final vote and firm budget guidelines will be made at an early April board meeting.
In other news, Doug Birk, school board chair, explained that he has had concerns about homework assigned with the expectation that students have internet access and that it’s been covered by what would be considered a hodge lodge approach. “What’s the policy if students don’t have access? Because the impact on students can be significant and affects that achievement gap.”
High school principal Driver addressed that they have open hours in the mornings for students to come in and use computers and that he would love to see the Tuesday and Thursday, Youth Matters, afternoon program expand.
Birk was happy to hear that there were solutions in place.
In further matters, the St. Michael-Albertville Ice Arena is in the process of replacing the arena’s dehumidification system and ceiling and costs have come in $150,000 more than the original projections, meaning each of the three involved entities will be responsible for an additional $50,000 towards the repairs. The original plan was that both projects would be completed due to water and mold issues that will occur if one is fixed and not the other.
Parent Hollee Saville questioned the board on the money they are spending on hockey arena repairs. “Where is this money coming from? If it’s from the general fund, it could be funding teachers. The school district’s role is to educate children,” she said also touching on the fact that not all kids play hockey.
“It’s all a matter of opinion. It’s our building and we have to take care of it,” board member Drew Scherber responded, as STMA jointly owns the arena with the cities of St. Michael and Albertville.
In other action, the board:
HEARD that Seniors will have senior recognition day Friday, May 23. SNAP period will be moving to the end of the day and senior student privileges were approved including no school for 12th grade students Friday, May 30, the day of graduation.
WAS presented by Ideal Energies with proposals for adding solar panels to all of the district buildings except for community education. There are many rebates available to the school district via Xcel Energy and if they purchase solar panels that are made in Minnesota. While solar energy is nothing new, this program requires acceptance into a program via lottery to make it a viable option for the schools and until the lottery has been completed.