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Menahga School revises its device policy

In an effort to make devices more affordable for students in grades 7-12, the Menahga School Board approved a policy change at their Monday meeting.

Superintendent Kevin Wellen reported that technology coordinator Brian Krause found that only 60 percent of students took their devices home during the last school year. Krause expressed concern that the district’s fees were “too high and prohibitive” for large families.

Families currently pay $40 per student, with a $120 cap per family, to be able to take the device home with a charger. They pay a $50 deductible for damages.

“We know that we have some parents who are philosophically opposed, but if fees are the challenge,” Wellen said, the proposed fee changes may help.

The amended policy calls for a lower device fee – $20 per student, capped at $80 per family per year. The deductible for the first repair would be $20, $40 for the second repair, then $60 for any additional repair. This would apply to fifth and sixth grade students as well.

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In addition to easing the financial strain, the idea is to encourage students to bring laptops home to maximize their learning. The seventh-hour teacher will check out and check in computers.

The new policy also gives graduating seniors to the opportunity to purchase their devices. The district would depreciate the value of the laptops $75 per year, Wellen explained. A new laptop and case are $375, but over the course of four years, would depreciate to $75.

“But if they had no insurance claims in the four years they were here, then they could buy it for $10 because they have paid us $20 per year for those years,” Wellen said.

The Class of 2019 will receive an instant alert to see if any are interested in purchasing their devices for $300. Those proceeds would be used to purchase laptops for the incoming ninth graders, Wellen said.

Wellen said he expects students will take better care of the computers if they know they will get to purchase it later.

Board member Julia Kicker said she knows there are families that do not want the technology in their homes, “so it doesn’t matter how low the fees go. On the flip side, I know my own children learn by using computers. That’s their best option.” As a means of damage control, she said she doesn’t allow some of her children to bring the devices home.

High School Principal Mark Frank said the district respects the wishes of parents and works with those who feel their child isn’t responsible, “but we didn’t want to have a hindrance if cost is prohibitive.”

Frank said the school is looking at offering the same software security settings and filters at home as there are at the school.

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The board unanimously approved the policy changes.

Student handbooks

The board approved the second reading of 2019-20 student handbooks after being reassured that students are saying the Pledge of Allegiance at least once a week.

The majority of teachers have their classrooms say the pledge during first hour, said Middle School Principal Ann Wothe.

In other business, the board did as follows:

  • Called for a special election to fill a one-year school board position. Bob White was appointed to the board following Jon Kangas’ resignation. The election will be held Nov. 5, with polls open from 2-8 p.m.

  • Authorized the purchase of additional kitchen equipment for the new addition, not to exceed $50,000, using food service funds

  • Accepted the resignation of industrial tech teacher Jeremy Rach, effective July 12, thanking him for his six years of service to the district.

  • Accepted a $500 donation from the Shane Keranen Memorial Foundation for the elementary school library and $1,000 from girl’s basketball boosters for the new scorer’s table.

  • Approved 2019-20 contracts with Dana Niska as a long-term substitute kindergarten teacher, Megan Porta as a long-term substitute teacher and Jeffrey Poppema as a middle school science teacher.

  • Modified approval of a leave-of-absence request for Kristina Scheidecker to include “a right of reinstatement to the position” if she files a written request prior to April 1, 2020.

  • Rescinded the meals and mileage reimbursement schedule, substitute teacher and bus driver pay schedule and miscellaneous fee schedule (student meals, activity passes, drivers ed, gate admission, instrument fees, etc.) as district policies. Instead, they will be treated as business office records, and will still be available to the public.

  • Approved the district’s employment of Brad Goehrig, Julia Kicker and Bob White, as long as compensation does not exceed $8,000 each for fiscal year 2020.

  • Awarded the milk bid to Dean Foods/Land O’Lakes, bread bid to Pan-O-Gold, gasoline bid to Menahga Lakes Area Cooperative, snow removal to Menahga Concrete and sanitation services to G&T Sanitation.

  • Tabled the purchase of middle school English language arts curriculum to allow board members more time to review the textbooks and explore paperback options.

  • Awarded lane changes requests to Mary Jo Brockpahler, Christine Henry, Christin Mohr, Darcie Orlando, Kevin Sommers, Keylee Sommers and Tara Weaver.

Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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