By John McLoone The Hastings School District Board of Education met last Wednesday night. They were able to celebrate some notable district achievements, hear how the district continues to navigate …
By John McLoone
The Hastings School District Board of Education met last Wednesday night. They were able to celebrate some notable district achievements, hear how the district continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and honored district retirees.
The meeting started out with Band Director Jim Jacobsen talking about achievements on the music side of things. The district has several kids that made All-State Band and All-State Choir.
“This is exciting news,” said Superintendent Dr. Robert McDowell, as Jacobsen announced the achievements on the school district virtual meeting.
Jacobsen also announced that Hastings, for the second year in a row, was honored with a Best Communities for Music Education honor.
“We’re one of only six school districts in the state that received that award,” said Jacobsen.
McDowell commented, “It’s just another example through this crazy year, we have pockets of awesomeness. Our kids are resilient.”
On the COVID-19 front, McDowell said, “I just wanted to let the board and everyone know our COVID numbers are holding since we moved to hybrid in the school. It dropped back down to 5-10 students a day that we’re quarantining which was where we were prior to spring break.
“Our middle school numbers are up there. We’re seeing about 15-20 kids on any given day that are having close contact but still are holding steady with the number of kids that are symptomatic,” said McDowell. “Our elementary schools, we’ve had a couple classes that have gone out in a couple buildings just because of close contact.”
“Overall,” he said. “our numbers are staying steady.”
The district will also be able to continue to provide free meals to students.
“We just got news this week that the Minnesota government has approved the federal government meal program. We’ll be able to continue with meals,” McDowell said. “That’s been a big part of what we’ve been able to do for families in need or anyone for that matter.”
McDowell reported to the board that administration is finalizing strategic planning.
“We’re actually in the last quarter of the run here with strategic planning,” he said. “To this point, we’ve collected over 1,400 surveys which has resulted in a 175-page document of results, most of which are survey results from our families. We also surveyed our staff and students.”
Results of the strategic planning are being uploaded to the school district web page as the process is finalized.
“What we did in addition to the surveys, what we did is we identified affinity group families that are families that are typically underrepresented in things that we do,” he said.
Through the strategic planning process, “We’re looking at what’s working and what’s not working,” said McDowell.
When that process is done, the planning process will move to the school board.
“At the end, hopefully by June, we will have a nice direction for where we should be going for Hastings Public Schools,” said McDowell.
On the facility front, Board Member Lisa Hedin attended the meeting live from a Hastings High School baseball game through the wonders of modern public meeting technology.
She said that some bids on projects are coming in higher than hoped, “notably above the estimates.”
“We need to keep an eye on whether this is a trend,” she said.
It was reported that prices are higher in areas where public facilities are using the same contractors as the booming residential construction and home improvement industry.
The district approved routine staff items and some notable retirements.
“There are some of our staff that have been with us for decades that are retiring,” Board member Scott Gergen said. “I want to say thank you to them as a group.”
Retirements approved include: Assistant High School Principal Paul Vait.
Instructional Assistant -Special Ed Pam Pontzer.
Education Support Professional-Special Ed Claudia Balk.
Custodian Scott Ehnstrom.
The board approved the school calendar for next school year, and added Jan. 16, Martin Luther King Day, as a nonstaff, non-student day.
That move shifted the end of the school year to June 8 being the last day and June 9 being a staff workshop day.