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Special needs open enrollment space availability set to zero for NR School District

During its Jan. 19 regular school board meeting, the Board of Education for the New Richmond School District discussed many topics, including special needs open enrollment, the driver’s education situation within the district and the next steps in the Community Commons project.

According to New Richmond School District Director of Student Services Kathy Rogers, the school district is already at or close to capacity at all levels in regards to special education student to teacher ratios and seat availability for open enrollment.

“I’ve looked at our current caseload numbers and what we would have available next year for students who want to open enroll, and based on my numbers and our desired caseload numbers...I am recommending that we don’t accept open enrollment for students with disabilities who are open enrolling in,” Rogers said. “We tried last year to accept some students and then prorate out some of their costs and recoup from a different district, but we aren’t allowed to do that.”

Open enrollment begins on Feb. 3, so the board needed to make a decision sooner rather than later, Rogers said.  

“Although we might have the space, the caseload we have is based on the staffing not on the space available,” said District Administrator Jeff Moberg. “Throughout the year we will get periodic requests for more staff, but that is related to students who moved in and put our program over capacity. You can’t prepare for all of it. We try to be ready when the year starts, but the numbers are constantly changing.”

Based on Rogers’ explanation, the board voted to accept her recommendation and approved the open enrollment space availability for special education students to be zero for the upcoming open enrollment period.

Driver’s education discussion

Another major topic discussed by the school board was the need to find a new option for providing driver’s education to high school students.

“We have looked at a number of schools and it looks like there are two really popular options,” Moberg said. “Some offer the program through Community Ed. and others extend an invitation to WITC.”

As part of Phase 1, Moberg and Director of Fiscal and Building Operations Brian Johnson met with Director of Community Education Cheryl Emerson to put together a budget to see what it would cost to run the program through Community Ed. The next part of Phase 1, according to Moberg, is to invite WITC to bring in a proposal of their own to compare costs.

“So far, we have a proposal from one of two entities, but we will look at those when we get them both and have them ready to go in February,” Moberg said. “We will present them both to the board and give you our recommendation.”

Following his short update, members of the board inquired about whether or not there was currently a lack of driver’s education services in the community and why the school stopped providing the program internally.

“I believe there will be a lack of services,” Moberg said. “We were prompted to explore these options because the services that does about 99 percent of our students is not looking to continue to offer those services, or to continue offering them in a different way. It would then be harder for students to get drivers education and we want to make it easier.”

Whichever option the school board pursues, Moberg said the classes would be taught at the high school with a couple different times being offered after school for students not in activities and later options for those students who are in activities.

“We dropped our drivers ed. program before because there was a loss of state reimbursement,” Moberg said. “Even though we are trying to help make it easier for the students to take drivers ed., I don’t see us coming that far back as to having the class taught during school by one of our staff members with a credit being earned. However, if we have staff who are still certified to teach the course, they can chose to work through Community Ed. or WITC.”

Leo A. Daly contract

Moberg brought the new Leo A. Daly proposal for the next phase of the Community Commons project to the board at its meeting Monday in order to get it approved and underway.

Task 1 of the next phase of the project includes the engineering building audit and an executive summary report and opinion of probable costs. The City of New Richmond and the school board will share the costs of Task 1, which is not to exceed $9,800.

“The city council approved paying for the other half of Task 1 at their last meeting,” Moberg said. “This step would start to move the view down closer and closer. This will really help pare down the multitude of ideas that we had in the first phase and let us see what is unaffordable as well as find out what is realistic.”

The board approved Task 1 in the amount of $4,900.

Snow day makeup

Moberg recommended that the board set Friday, June 5 as a school day make-up.

“We are fine on minutes and we are fine on days for students, so this would only be a staff only day,” Moberg said. “We would do our end of the year staff awards,...allow the staff to wrap up with their stuff and give them the chance to get their rooms in order. I think it is a good wrap up to the year.”

Other business:

-- The board approved the hiring of three new positions, two staff and one extra-curricular, while also approving the resignation of the high school’s school nutritionist Elizabeth Kamm.

-- The board approved eight grants/gifts to the district.

-- The board approved the continuing NR4Kids site applications.

-- The board approved three course options applications.

-- The board was given the preliminary second Friday enrollment counts, which has the total enrollment for the district at 3,267, including Early Childhood, 4K and K-12 students. That number is up two students from the first Friday enrollment count.

The board’s next regular board meeting is scheduled for Feb. 16 at 7 p.m.

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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