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Nevis extends class time for band/choir, electives

Nevis students will experience a longer school day next year, the school board agreeing to add 22 minutes to the day to alleviate scheduling conflicts with band and choir and add high school electives.

Superintendent Steve Rassier said scheduling conflicts were anticipated with music and electives when the school moved from block times to the six-period day.

"These conflicts were minor in the last two school years." Rassier said. But the school is anticipating more developing next year.

The major advantage of this change is to allow all students the opportunity to participate in band and/or choir, provide a study hall period for non-music students, give students the option to take additional electives and have staff available to monitor halls during lunch periods, Rassier said.

The length of class time will remain at 57 minutes. The teachers' contract gives the district the flexibility to make this change. A seven-period day, however, "would create contract issues."

"It's vital to protect our band and choir programs," principal Jodi Sandmeyer told the board. She also endorsed the additional electives to be available to juniors and seniors.

"It opens a lot of opportunities for kids," board member Kris Sauser agreed.

The board approved the 22-minute extension of the school day, with the starting and ending times yet to be established. Times of 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. and 8:15 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. are under consideration.

In other action, the board:

-Denied paid child care/paternity leave for social studies teacher Richard Johnson.

In a memo to the board and administration, Johnson said he would be the full-time primary caregiver for his newborn from Oct. 5-Nov. 25.

"I elect to use accumulated sick leave for these 34 school days in accordance with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and our contract agreement," Johnson wrote.

But board member (and former administrator) Walter Bromenschenkel pointed out neither the FMLA nor the teachers' contract provides use of sick leave days for child care.

The FMLA allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for the birth and first-year care of a child, Rassier said in a memo to the board.

The teachers' agreement allows use of sick leave benefits for absence due to a child's illness or injury on the same terms a teacher may use sick leave benefits.

"My wife and I are partners," Johnson told the board. "We fully expect to both take care of our children."

Bromenschenkel noted the board has, in the past, granted sick leave under these conditions. "A case could be made on past practice," he said, but noting a single instance wouldn't be considered practice. "If over the years this was being done, it would have some implications."

The board approved a motion by Bromenschenkel to "grant the child care leave subject to terms of the negotiated agreement."

-Granted tenure to kindergarten teacher Jennifer Travis and math instructor Edwin Heltunen.

"She does a fantastic job with kids," Rassier said of Travis.

Rassier commended Heltunen's subject knowledge.

"They are great additions to the staff," he said.

-Approved a $14,424 bid from Bemidji Roofing for re-roofing of the gym.

-Reported the district is applying for a $85,947 federal grant to replace the antiquated school cooler and freezer.

The district may be at an advantage considering more than 50 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch, Rassier said.

The district is also applying for an $80,000 technology grant to purchase Interactive WhiteBoards and train staff.