School board considering voter-approved capital levy

Securing voter-approved operating levies hasn’t exactly been easy for North Branch Area Public Schools, but the district has been more successful with capital levies when construction is needed on buildings.

At the North Branch Area Public Schools School Board meeting Thursday, Director of Finance and Human Resources Randi Johnson noted the district will need to address construction projects in the upcoming years and “capital funding streams are not enough to keep up with (the district’s) capital needs.”

Subsequently, she said the school finance department could, if asked, pursue a proposal for a voter-approved capital levy.

The district is currently moving forward with conducting studies of facilities, grounds, technology and security.

Johnson did not recommend pursuing an operating levy, because the district still has to iron out how much per-pupil funding it will be receiving from the state.

The exact amount likely won’t be known until this fall.

“The complexity of what the legislature did has to be worked through,” Superintendent Deb Henton said.

Board Member Randy Westby agreed with that assertion.

“We’re putting the cart before the horse,” he said. “I’d like to see what the legislation is and how it plays out.”

If funding turns out to be better than expected from the state, Westby also said the district should again look at changing the NBAPS school week from four days to five.

Henton also noted the bulk of the funding coming from the state won’t be until the second year of the biennium, because that’s when all-day, every-day kindergarten is to be implemented.

Attendance policy

Board Member Kirby Ekstrom said debates on the school’s attendance policy were some of the longest he’s ever been a part of, but no major changes were made to the school’s draft policy.

However, some noteworthy additions were suggested:

• Having a family member on military leave or observance of a religious or cultural holiday approved as an excused absence.

• Instituting an appeals processed for absences that were initially deemed non-excused.

• Removing language that currently doesn’t allow for students to make up work if they were truant.

• Requiring teachers to consult their building’s administrator before lowering a student’s grade after the sixth cumulative unexcused absence in a trimester.

• For students in all grades, making it so three unexcused tardies in a trimester will equate to one unexcused absence.

The board will review the updated draft policy for its first reading at its June business meeting.

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