The Oelwein School Board heard a report on district before- and after-school programming from a new director. They approved federally-required changes to a board health policy, a STEM-focused trip to London and the Certified Annual Report for last school year at the regular meeting on Monday.
Barb Schmitz has directed 21st century grant for a number of years, and last year was her last full year on this project.
The biggest “win” last year, Schmitz said, was that the district received the 21st Century Grant for the high school, which began in July. The grant will fund the high school for five years and the district received an almost $700,000 award, she said.
Schmitz indicated a young team of educators were involved in writing this grant and gained that experience.
Catherine Wedemeier has been with the district for two years as FoodCorps service coordinator. She moved into Schmitz’s former role as coordinator of the 21st Century Grant-funded before-and-after-school programming, titled the Husky Adventures Program, and Summer School.
The district restarted its Husky Adventures program on Monday, Sept. 12, Wedemeier said. There is now a fourth-grade Chess Club led by new K-5 school counselor Jacob Garnette.
The grant is basically for before and after school, Superintendent Josh Ehn told the Daliy Register.
“We’ve done some before school stuff at the middle school and high school with some success. We’ve never had a great deal of success at the elementary (before school),” Ehn said.
“That’s one of the new things for us this year is to try to push a reading book club for elementary kids in the morning,” he said. “That’s still under development but we’ll be rotating around by grade level over the next few months.”
Morning Reading Club will run from 7:30-8:30 a.m., Wedemeier told the board.
This school year, 21st Century before- and after-school type funds for grades 1-8 will be a $138,750 annual award, and for the high school, a $162,000 annual award, Wedemeier said.
Key players who help with the day to day staffing for the grants, meetings, include Tammy Stasi at the middle school, Kelli Roth at the high school, and Wedemeier at the elementary.
For summer school in June, the district brought in 200 students, grades 1-8, 32 staff members and 12 certified teachers, she said. Programs included swimming lessons, theater camp, bowling, and visiting Fontana Park, Hawkeye Buffalo Farm and the school garden at Wings Park Elementary. Breakfast, lunch and transportation were provided.
July sports camp lasted four days with six teachers teaching 50 students including 10 high school students.
August reading camp for grades 1-8 lasted six days, with 35 students and seven teachers.
The board continues to update policies by series as it goes from old policies to a digital version.
“It’s a brand new mandatory policy,” Ehn told the board. “Schools receiving federal money to perform annual exams and screenings of students, the schools must annually notify parents of such exams and screenings with the exception of vision, hearing and scoliosis. This is not something we practice, but it is a law that passed.”
Concerns were raised with lawmakers over whether some schools were doing too much on the health screenings side.
“Legislators wanted to pull back on that,” Ehn said.
“Not something that I’m necessarily worried about on the surface right now, but again we have to have this policy on the books because it’s a new mandate.”
The board approved the Certified Annual Report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022. The treasurer report by fund to the Iowa Department of Education shows the general fund ending balance at $3,786,364.14. The student activity fund ended at $393,749.97 and the management levy fund at $88,461.54.
In building-related funds, SAVE ended at $1,592,025.15 and PPEL at $539,056.81.
The board also approved the special education deficit. The district's total special education net revenues were $77,013.75 under expenditures, board documents state.
“You’re looking at and approving the overage,” Ehn told the board. “So 95% of school districts in Iowa run a deficit in special education. We have specific tax levying ability to get cash, to cover that overage. Our deficit has run in six figures many years, so we’ve been looking at slowly bringing that down.
“These are very healthy numbers for us,” Ehn said. “We’re running a deficit, that’s the approval on this one.”
The next item they approved was a request to the School Budget Review Committee for permission to levy for the general fund to pay for the special ed deficit.
The board approved a STEM-related (science, technology, engineering and math) trip to London with Educational Focus Tours after a detailed presentation from math teacher Bethany Hadley. The trip will last nine days in March. Many hands-on interactive activities are listed.
Some of the educational aspects include visiting
the National History Museum or the Science Museum; participating in an interactive forensics workshop, a guided Jack the Ripper tour, visiting Stonehenge and take part in an interactive hands-on activity, take in a theater performance, visiting Bletchley Park and participate in a code-breaking workshop, visit the National Museum of Computing, and visiting the Royal Observatory at Greenwich.