The Fergus Falls school board passed a resolution Monday acknowledging the generosity of the 544 Education Foundation for awarding nearly $34,000 in grants to the school district.

Fergus Falls is among a host of Minnesota public schools that has been weathering financial challenges due to COVID-19 expenses in 2020. 

According to district business manager Blake Stoltman, Fergus Falls has applied and been approved for $752,905.76 in CARES Relief funding. The federal program’s stipulation is that all CARES funding must go toward COVID-19 related expenses. Stoltman said the funds will go toward meeting “any additional staff hires that we’ve had to do.”

Stoltman also pointed out that the district has applied for $33.039.59 of Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funding, which can be applied to technology expenses related to distance learning.

The district’s efforts to fulfill the educational requirements of their student body also includes an application to the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER). District 544 is applying for $297,954 in these funds which, according to Stoltman, can be applied to meet a multitude of expenses.

It was pointed out by Superintendent Jeff Drake that activities director Derek Abrahams and others are researching electronic ticket sales in order to cut down on the dangers of COVID-19 contact as winter indoor extracurricular sports season approaches. Nearly all sports activities in Fergus Falls during the winter months are held indoors.

While the cases of COVID-19 per 10,000 in Otter Tail County has risen above the 20 mark for the first time, Drake said the administration will refrain from changing from a Tier 2 learning plan to a Tier 3. 

Tier 2 has allowed Fergus Falls to have students between kindergarten and sixth grade in school all day, in person. The hybrid model for grades 7-12 will see the groups break up into two groups — one that will attend class in person Monday and Thursday, the other Tuesday and Friday. Wednesday students will work from home, allowing teachers to prep for distance learning.

A Tier 3 learning plan would call for all Fergus Falls students and faculty to follow a hybrid learning model. 

“Right now, the plan is, for as long as we possibly can, to remain at Tier 2,” Drake said.

He also said school enrollment is up by 13 students, the district is expecting a delivery of Chromebooks by the end of October and construction at Lincoln School is progressing with a significant change of the building’s color scheme. 

The school board took up two items of new business. The board passed the 2020-21 assurance of compliance with state and federal laws prohibiting discrimination before giving a green light to fee changes in the Community Education driver’s education program. The program fee for classroom and behind-the-wheel training for district students will be $300 while training for nondistrict students was placed at $325.

“The fees have been pretty constant for quite a period of time,” Drake said. “Basically it reflects our costs for our student for the program so it’s definitely appropriate.” 

As part of the general consent agenda package the board OK’d the certified staff hire of Ashton Fuhs. The iQ Academy elementary teacher saw a full-time equivalent contract increase of .1475 effective as of Sept. 28.

A certified staff resignation by Dan Allinder was also approved. Allinder has been an orchestra and general music teacher at Kennedy Secondary and Cleveland. His last work day will be Oct. 23.

A 2020-21 individual contract was approved for facilities supervisor Doug Anderson effective Dec. 1, 2020.

The board’s next meeting is set for 5:15 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26 in the Otter community room.

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