MINSTER — New COVID protocols and future real estate tax renewals were topics at the Minster Board of Education meeting Monday night, Jan. 11.
Superintendent Brenda Boeke reported that Governor Mike DeWine has changed its guidance regarding quarantines following an in-classroom exposure in K-12 schools. The new policy dictates that students and teachers exposed to a COVID-positive person in school are no longer required to quarantine as long as the exposure occurred in a classroom setting and all students/teachers were wearing masks and following other appropriate protocols.
She said the change follows an evaluation of virus spread in Ohio schools conducted by researchers with the Ohio Schools COVID-19 Evaluation Team. Preliminary results of the evaluation found no discernible difference in the risk of contracting the coronavirus between those in close contact with a COVID-positive person in the classroom and those who were farther away.
Schools should continue to require quarantines for exposed students in situations where masking and distancing protocols were not followed. The updated quarantine guidance does not apply to after-school activities, including sports.
In related news, Boeke said that the next vaccination phase, Tier 1B, will include school personnel. In particular, schools currently open or planning to open for in-person education, are now on the priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. The state is coordinating through each county’s health department. Boeke said the Auglaize County Health Director Oliver Fisher will hold a press conference later this week sharing more information on when and where school staff can receive their vaccines.
Boeke also updated the board on the completion of the high school remodeling project. She said the current project is complete except for the paying of Adena — the construction manager. Highlights of the $10,504,853.62 project, with total encumbrances of $10,485,359.55 and a remaining budget of $19,494.07 She added that all project POs have been fully paid with one exception. The only remaining encumbrance is $4,557.77 for Adena which will be submitted after the final closeout calculator is completed.
In other action, the board accepted donations of $250 from Steven and Christa Heckman for an eighth grade Student Washington D.C. Trip and $100 from Matt and Jenna Schulz for the Life Skills Education Classroom. The board also approved recommendations from Boeke for personnel actions.
District Treasurer Laura Klosterman reported that the Permanent Improvement (PI) levy will need to be renewed or replaced this year. In a future Board work session, she said she will share the resolution deadlines. She added that a keeping the renewal levy as is keeps the same effective millage which is .8 mills with effective millage at .016 and homeowners still receive the 10.5% rollback reduction. Replacing the levy would have millage set back to .8 mills and the homeowner does not get the 10.5% rollback reduction. Klosterman added that if the school district runs the levy in May, the district will bear the entire cost of the election since there will be no other issues on the ballot.
She also said they had received their property tax information. Ag values are down due to legislation changes and was expected to amount to 19.74%. However, that figure would be offset by the 20.5% increase to residential values.
Leanne Keller, grades K to 6 principal, updated the board on the spelling bee participants as well as the numbers interested in the after school STEM opportunity provided through the Mercer County Educational Service Center.
She said 24 students (12 third-graders, and 12 fourth-graders) participated in their first after school STEM program on Jan. 11. The program, which features Squishy Circuits, will also be held on Jan. 25 and Feb. 1 and 8.
She added that, based on the high level of interest, they intend to provide another after school STEM opportunity in the spring.
Also, Keller noted that they have begun accepting kindergarten registrations for the 2021-22 school year.
Spelling Bee by winning their grade level competition were: Grade 4: Brynn Bornhorst, Therese Schulze, Jacob Schutte, Landon Sextro; Alternates: James Kuehner, Darren Schwartz. Grade 5: Kendall Heitkamp, Carson Kaylor, Nathan Meyer, Eli Zumberger; Alternate: Sawyer Sharp Grade 6: Kalli Bergman, Tyler Bergman, Sara Dwenger, Alexis Gonzalez; Alternate: Alexis Martin.
Junior/Senior High School principal Austin Kaylor congratulated the seventh grade spelling bee winners Cole Albers, Maria Niekamp, Ellie Grieshop, and Andrew Wiss. Alternate is Jace Hemmelgarn. These students will compete in the annual district spelling bee on Jan. 19. He said the eighth grade qualifiers have not yet been determined.
In other news, Kaylor said semester exams are scheduled for Jan. 13-15.
The College Credit Plus (CCP) Info Session is being held virtually on the evening of Jan. 11. At 6:30 p.m. representatives of Minster school and the partnering universities will be available for live questions and answers through Zoom.
Also, modifications have been made to the format for grade 7 to 11 student-led conferences with each student taking their finished folder for an at-home conference around the Presidents Day weekend. Included is a verification sheet to be signed by a parent/guardian and returned to school. Teachers will schedule phone/Zoom conferences with struggling students and be available for all parents on the evenings of Feb. 8 and 18.
He said eighth grade orientation will be a hybrid format with teachers providing information about electives and upper-level courses through pre-recorded videos that will be shared with students and parents in advance of the meeting. On Feb. 8 current eighth graders and a parent will meet in the elementary commons for information relating to freshman scheduling and the transition to high school.
Regarding the tentatively-scheduled June 2021 eighth grade trip to Washington, D.C., Kaylor said the school is waiting for the interest/registration paperwork from our families, due Jan. 22. He added the first payment is due to BRT in early February, and the decision to move forward or postpone the trip again will be largely driven by the number of families willing to make a financial commitment.
AgriBusiness teacher Paul Winglewich told the board that the former Schunk property was farmed this year and resulted in four acres being planted. He said his students were watching the markets and charting the best time to sell their 560 bushels of corn. He estimated that the Ag program may net about $2,000 which will be used to purchase materials for next year’s use of the property.
In the annual board organizational meeting held before the regular meeting, Trina Nixon was elected president and Sandy Schulze was elected vice president. It was decided the regular monthly meetings would be on the third Monday of the month beginning at 7 p.m. in the large group meeting room of the elementary school.
The following board members have been appointed to serve on the following committees:
District Leadership Team representative is Trina Nixon, Tri Star Career Compact Advisory Council is Sandy Schulze, Athletic Council rep is Ted Oldiges, Recreation Committee rep is Rich Bruns, Levy Committee is Rich Bruns. Jeff Monnin is the representative to the Scholarship Fund and Leslie Tyler will serve as the board’s appointed representative to the Community Fund. Superintendent Boeke serves as the board’s appointed representative to the Community Improvement Committee.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.