The Fergus Falls School Board met for a special meeting on Friday, Nov. 13 and again on Monday, Nov. 16 for a regular meeting. The board canvassed votes from the Nov. 3 election, reviewed the results of the district’s audit, discussed the potential future shift to a different learning model and touched base on important items such as the progress at the Target building, curriculum review, staff professional development and 544 Education Foundation activities.

At the special school board meeting, votes from the Nov. 3 election were canvassed and certified, and the reelection of incumbent school board members Matthew Lemke, Natalie Knutson and Stephen Vigessa for another four-year term were confirmed. The Fergus Falls school board will therefore remain unchanged, with the three mentioned members joining Kirby Anderson, Melanie Cole and Melissa Hermes.

The greater part of the regular school board meeting was spent reviewing the district’s audit, conducted by Eide Bailly LLP. The district received a “clean” audit opinion, meaning that their financial statements did not have any “material misstatements” and were fairly presented. The district showed steady growth in cash and investments, fund balance and student enrollment.

“It’s a really positive year,” said Blake Stoltman, finance director at Fergus Falls Public Schools.

Lemke, chair of the board, commented that despite the good audit numbers and growth, Fergus Falls Public Schools ranks 468th out of 495 school districts and charters schools in the state for funding per student. The state average is $11,399 per student and Fergus Falls receives about $8,798 per student. “We do a lot with a lot less than the state gives the average student,” Lemke said. “If we would get to the state average, we’d have a lot more opportunities for our students.” The district ranks 67th for enrollment in the state.

During his report, Superintendent Jeff Drake gave an update on COVID-19 numbers and said the district has received guidance from the county to look at moving into a distance learning model. Drake said, while he was taking the guidance seriously, he wanted to keep younger students in a model that allowed for face-to-face learning and said the county was willing to support that. On Nov. 17 he announced that grades 9-12 would be moving to 100% distance learning while other students would remain in hybrid for grades 7-8 and in person for grades K-6.

The school did receive 200 Chromebooks last Friday and are in the process of distributing them. “This will leave us with reserve units in case we shift learning models or need replacements,” Drake said.

Drake also gave an update on Lincoln School, located in the former Target building, saying, “Coming up in the not-too-distant future will be an opportunity to tour the building, that’s coming up (around) Dec. 7. The completion date has been pushed back until approximately Jan. 20 give or take, there were some structural elements that the inspector had gone over and wanted changes made.”

The school is also expecting delivery of electrostatic sprayers that had been ordered in August and will also be receiving several pallets of personal protective equipment (PPE) for free after being drawn from a list by the Chromebook vendor.

The school board approved the certified staff hire of David Stordalen, orchestra and general music teacher at Cleveland Elementary and Kennedy Secondary School, to replace Dan Allinder.

They also approved a joint resolution with Fergus Falls Education Association to honor veterans and passed five revisions to school board policies as well as a revision of the school district calendar to move a student three-hour early out day to June 3 and staff development day to June 4 as a result of October’s snow day.

Due to COVID-19, Anderson reported that 544 Education Foundation has had to cancel some events including Otter Pride Night and staff development breakfast, as well as the possible cancellation of the all-school reunion.

The next meeting of the school board will be held on Monday, Dec. 14 at 5:15 p.m. at Kennedy Secondary School, either in the Otter Community Room or the media center. There is also a World’s Best Workforce meeting during the school board meeting, and a technology plan and internet safety policy public meeting to discuss specific technology protection measures to block or filter internet access during the school board meeting. At 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 14 in the Otter Community Room there will be a Fergus Falls Public Schools taxes payable 2021 public meeting.

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