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March 28, 2020

3/20/2020 10:08:00 AM
Highland Board of Education talks about response to COVID-19 School closed indefinitely
Spring break for Highland Community Schools came at an opportune time with Governor Evers' mandate that all Wisconsin schools be closed indefinitely. This was all unknown during the Highland Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, March 11; however, the board did discuss the possibility of a long-term school closure. In the near future, the district will be updating its pandemic plan as it's from 2007 and is outdated. Highland is in a bit of a unique situation according to Superintendent Nancy Hendrickson in the fact that it's a charter school, so technically, all of the hours a student is required to receive instruction are waived. Nevertheless, learning still needs to go on to prepare students for the next grade or life after high school. Virtual learning opportunities will be held for students and what that looks like will depend on the teacher. "We intend to engage with students in a virtual way if needed," Hendrickson said. Additionally, the board is looking at potentially expanding summer school to help both students and staff make up lost hours and money. The board is also looking at ways to help support staff not face salary cuts. More information about the evolving situation regarding Highland Schools and its closure can be found on their website at highland.k12.wi.us or on their Facebook page at facebook.com/Highland-Community-Schools.
Middle school students and staff have been working with the DNR on a special water project - a long-term monitoring project on the Otter Creek/Blackhawk Lake system. DNR and Highland students monitored the fish community and water quality both upstream and downstream on Otter Creek as well as on Blackhawk Lake. The students will present their results at the 2020 River and Lakes Conference in April along with presenting to the local DNR. The goal of the project was to introduce student to primary research and scientific methods in a very hands-on way. One of the results that the students noted was that the phosphorus levels were above the state standard with can cause algae blooms and is bad for the animals in the water. This is the first year of the project, and the hope is to continue it for many years to come.
In other business:
• The budget for fiscal year 2020 is looking great as there is approximately $11,000 left in the budget and a total of $100,000 to spend at the end of the year. This positive balance should allow for some additional end-of-year expenditures. Buildings and grounds will begin to review the highest needs for possible projects.
• A look at the preliminary budget for fiscal year 2021 shows line items staying the same. These numbers are very early. Moreover, there will be one less slot of classes at the elementary school as the larger classes move up to the middle/high school. Hendrickson explained that the staff that they currently have will stay but a position will be retooled to help at the middle/high school for the bigger class sizes and help with special education as well. "We've got the staff, and we've got the funding," she said. Some teachers have already expressed interest in the new position. The board agreed to maintain staffing levels as Hendrickson was confident that the budget will allow for it, and there are some special education students with bigger needs.
• The summer school program and staffing for the upcoming year were approved. The proposal was the usual programming. With the summer school attendance, 11 students are added to the district's revenue cap numbers and state aid calculations. Staff working summer school include Nicole Sander, Jessica Weber, Alyson Berg, Sarah Hennessey, Jean Pierick, Lynn Michek, Kirsten Rusch, Lisa Bowen, Miranda Parker, Andrea Doyle, Ashley Halverson, Kari Smith, Peg McCarthy, Ginger Halverson, Isaac Campbell, Diane Kaiser, Abbie Ramel, and Melissa Straka.
• The board previously approved initial planning for a trip to Spain in July 2021. The time has now come to begin to actually enroll interested students. There are contingencies for health/pandemic related delays or cancellations. Fennimore Schools recently had their trip to Italy cancelled by the same company Highland is planning on using due to travel warnings. People were able to receive refunds.
• The regular minutes from the February 12, 2020 meeting were passed along with the current expenses and vouchers payable.
• The next board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, April 8 at 6 p.m.





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