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Nevis School budget increased by 2.6 %

UpNorthLearning.jpg
Nevis is one of the schools that is part of the Up North Learning Center for Level 4 special education students.
Enterprise file photo.

Nevis School’s 2021-22 budget increased by 2.6% following approval of an amended budget at Monday night’s school board meeting.

The largest chunk of the increase was created by $185,000 in startup costs for the Up North Learning Center, which serves Level 4 special education students from five districts. These costs will be reimbursed to the district through special education reimbursement and through the levy process.

The facility is currently set up for students in grades K-7. Nevis does not currently have any students in the building, but is paying to have the facility available for use when a student qualifies for that level of services.

Other reasons for the budget increase are paying for a full-time substitute teacher’s salary and benefits and the loss of enrollment of 9-13 students due to homeschooling or online schooling outside of the district.

That resulted in a new budget with expenditures $221,728 over revenue. The revised budget shows revenues of $8,470,224 and expenditures of $8,691,952.

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Superintendent Gregg Parks noted that some areas have seen revenue increases, including $10,000 more in revenue from sporting events since COVID restrictions lessened and a $40,000 grant to reimburse the district for some of the cost of COVID testing.

Up North Learning Center

Board member Ed Becker and Parks met with members of the Up North Learning Center recently.

“They save us X number of seats based on the size of our schools. Park Rapids has 1,200 students and we have 600 students, so they have more seats than we do,” he said.

Becker explained that the facility currently has a low number of both students and employees.

“We’re exploring different ways to amp up revenue,” he said. “It’s built for 38 students total and right now there are seven or eight in there.”

Options being explored for increasing revenue for the facility are letting in students from other schools or expanding the program to include students in grades 8-12.

“We want to make sure that our students always have a seat by reserving those before we allow other students, that is the tricky part,” Becker said.

PAWN (Park Rapids, Walker, Nevis and Pine Point) schools are part of the Up North Learning Center at the site of the former Ah-Gwah-Ching facility in Walker, along with Laporte and Northland Remer.

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Parks explained that Level 4 means students are off-site for services.

“You can’t just take somebody and pluck them out of the regular ed classroom and say, ‘This kid’s acting up. I think he’s Level 4. Get him out of there,’” he said. “You have to go through a series of steps.

“First of all, the student has to be in special education. They have to have been provided opportunities to be in the regular ed classroom where we try various interventions. If a student can’t function all day in a regular ed environment, first of all we put them in Level 2, which takes them out of the classroom for a certain portion of the day. Level 3 is more time in the special ed teacher’s classroom and once again evaluating if interventions are working.”

He said moving a student to Level 4 is a group decision involving teachers, parents and an evaluation to see if there are enough criteria for the student to qualify for Level 4 services.

“We want to emphasize Level 4 is an opportunity for students who need it to work on skills to function in the classroom and get them back there as quickly as possible,” he said.

Plans for how to enhance revenue next year at the Up North Learning Center will be discussed at a followup meeting this spring.

Bus purchases

The board approved the purchase of two new buses this year with payment in the next fiscal year to replace buses from 2006 and 2009 at a total cost of $249,389.

“The bus procurement process has the potential to be lengthy due to supply chain issues,” Parks said. “It is the recommendation of the transportation team that the district starts the process now to ensure buses are available when needed next year.”

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Parks pointed out that seven of the 14 buses are more than 15 years of age.

“The cost of maintaining old buses and the continuous maintenance issues are indicators it is time to replace,” he said.

In other business, the board:

  • Approved a mental health practitioner who will work half-time in the Nevis district and half-time in the Park Rapids district through a partnership with Stellher Mental Health Services.
  • Accepted the American Indian Parent Advisory Council (AIPAC) annual compliance report presented by AIPAC Chair Katie Buckholtz.
  • Heard Principal Brian Michaelson report that on Feb. 9 the school brought in a mental health presenter for students grades 8-12. 
  • Approved the 2022-23 calendar passed by the teachers’ union.
  • Approve overnight trip requests for the student council March 3-4 and March 25-27, robotics team competitions in regional events in Duluth on March 3-5 and in Cedar Falls, Iowa on March 23-27 and FCCLA State Competition April 6-8.
  • Approved a classified work agreement with Dale Kosmacek to fill a vacant cook position.
  • Approve the retirement of custodian Fred Hensel.
  • Approved $3,378 in donations.
  • Discussed making investing in education a priority for the $9.3 billion state surplus.

The next school board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, March 28, in the school media center. A listening session with one board member will be held from 6:15 to 6:45 p.m.

Related Topics: NEVIS SCHOOL DISTRICT
Lorie Skarpness has lived in the Park Rapids area since 1997 and has been writing for the Park Rapids Enterprise since 2017. She enjoys writing features about the people and wildlife who call the north woods home.
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