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NR School Board discusses Before School Care, health insurance plan

Following a discussion about the Community Commons during the open forum portion of the April 20 New Richmond School District Board of Education regular meeting, the School Board went on to discuss the district’s Before School Care program and health insurance options.

Currently, the district runs a free Before School Care program for elementary school students at all three buildings. The program cares for students from 7 to 8 a.m. before the students get their breakfast and before the school day starts 8:40 a.m. Elementary school principals Dan McGuire, Mike Ballard, Frank Norton and District Administrator Jeff Moberg have all been working on a plan to change the program into a fee-based offering.

“The program came about as the district moved to a split schedule to assist families who had elementary students who were relying on their middle school or high school students to perform that before school care,” McGuire said. “We are seeing an increase in the number of students who are using the Before School program.”

Hillside Elementary currently has the largest number of students taking advantage of the Before School Care program with 219 students to four staff members, followed by Starr with 164 students to four staff members and Paperjack having just 40 students to one staff member.

“Almost half of our students [who make use of the Before School Care] are at the school before 7:25 a.m.,” McGuire said. “The numbers are there for the programs. Currently all three buildings have para support that we utilize to run our before school programs, but we are finding that this is taking that needed academic support away from our students during class time and during our WIN time.”

The disadvantage of the current free program, according to McGuire is that it puts an increased pressure on those staff members who are helping with the program and that there will soon be a need for more staff members to help with the program if the numbers continue to grow. That would lead to safety concerns since the district doesn't like to have more than a 40 to one student to staff ratio.

“If we were to go to a fee based program, it would result in fewer students participating because some families won’t want to pay for it, it will also allow our staff to get more time with students who need the help during the day and it will also benefit local providers who will not see us as competitors for those children any more,” McGuire said.

The group recommended that the district look into hiring a full time coordinator to set up the program for next fall. That person would be responsible for hiring, creating a handbook and documents to be used, setup billing, methods of communication, ordering of supplies and registration. The hours of the program would also likely shift to 6 to 8 a.m. The board approved a motion to support the fee based Before School Care program concept and hire a coordinator to begin program design.

Health insurance

Director of Fiscal and Building Operations Brian Johnston presented the board with the options for the renewal of its health insurance plan with Health Partners.

The district’s current deal is a three year deal from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2017. The cap for 2015-16 is 8 percent and the cap for 2016-17 is 9 percent, Johnston said. With the inflation rate on health insurance sitting at 8.8 percent, and the addition of ACA related taxes for HealthPartners, the calculated increase to the districts health insurance plan would be 16.66 percent.

However, HealthPartners did offer to extend the current contract with the district by one year at 9 percent and then reduce the increase for 2015-16 to 4 percent. Johnston suggested that the board make a motion to accept the 4 percent increase and extend the contract one more year. In the mean time, Johnston said he would look into self funding the district health insurance plan.

The board approved taking the offer of an extension of the contract and the 4 percent increase for 2015-16.

Other business

-- The school board approved changing the compensation for the high school head dance coach to reflect the changing program needs and the time commitment needed to run the program successfully through three seasons of high school sports.

-- The board accepted the resignations of seven teachers as well as three extra-curricular positions.

-- The board approved the hiring of seven extra-curricular positions, the 2015 Camp Wapo Chaperones and on high school teacher.

-- The board took a first look at the 2015-16 students handbooks for elementary, middle and high school students.

-- During the meeting, Athletic Director Casey Eckardt requested that the high school cheer coach position be reduced by 0.5 because the school will no longer be winter cheerleading. The school will still sponsor fall cheerleading.

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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