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TAHS graduation still undecided

The Tea Area school board met via Zoom April 14 for their regular meeting.

The meeting was also live-streamed through the district’s YouTube channel for the public to watch. Public comments were welcome by email to the superintendent prior to the meeting.

Superintendent Jennifer Lowery updated the board on the COVID-19 operations document. All staff under contract or work agreement will be paid for regular scheduled hours through the end of the school year. The bus drivers will receive route pay and they are doing online training.

Custodians are working on rotations and staying independent of each other. The nurse has been taking their temperatures before work and asking the questions they are supposed to ask in regards to the virus. Foodservice has added an administrator at each of the sites.

The district education office remains open but locked to the public. If a person needs to come in, they need to call ahead and wear a face mask if they have to enter the building. The goal is no face-to-face exposure.

In regards to the end of the year, Lowery presented this information:

Semester tests for grades 6-12 will be the week of May 11. Middle School and High School Student Handbook grade percentage breakdown will not be altered. Teachers will work with students to reach desired level of mastery (grade). The student will earn a grade and it will be on their report card (middle school) or report card and transcript (high school). Teachers and the principal will continue to work with the student until he or she earns a grade congruent with his or her normal performance including into the fall semester. Students who were failing prior to the COVID-19 closure may need to retake courses for credit. All students not previously failing, now earning F’s will make up the units of study in the fall. Fourth quarter learning impacts future understanding of content; therefore, students will either work now or be provided an extended school day, alternative schedule or both next fall to remediate for Spring 2020. The school’s focus is on student growth and keeping our students on target to graduate while filling any learning gaps that may have occurred during the COVID19 pandemic. A cost to the district may be associated with the extended school days next fall. The goal is to partner with families and students so they clearly understand we are here for them and they are accountable for their learning no matter when it occurs.

Middle and high school principals will present a semester test schedule to the director of curriculum for approval.

Elementary Report Card (K-5) Plan:

Elementary report cards are organized by standard. Tonia Warzecha has worked with elementary teams to identify which standards will be assessed. Pending the grade level, there may be standards that are unable to be assessed this spring. There are specific assessments developed to measure student’s mastery and score the report card, but teachers continue to have the discretion based on classwork evidence to override any singular assessment.

No student will be retained (held back). Remediation may be needed in the fall via early start of school, if permissible, extended school day, or Saturday interventions. A recommendation for fall remediation will be made at the end of the 2019-20 school year or within the first month of the 2020-21 school year. Each student’s 2019-20 and 2020-21 classroom teachers will work with the building principal to make recommendation for remediation service. Each student’s team will review longitudinal progress on district-administered assessments and work with each student’s parent or guardian to create remediation plans on an individualized basis.

Warzecha is working on the feasibility of administering the NWEA Map assessment this spring prior to May 15.

This would provide a benchmark for teachers, parents and students as they enter the 2020-21 school year as to where gaps or accelerated growth occurred.


Collin Knudson is working with the senior class on graduation options. The administration will be updating the board on the plan for the graduating class of 2020 soon. After developing a plan for graduation, end of year check-out and senior specific items will be released.

JK-11 Grade Check-out (May 18, 19, 20):

Student items will be organized in paper grocery bags or boxes. Each bag will have the student’s last name, first name, grade, locker number and stapled to it a list of items owed to the school. Paraprofessionals and teachers will be organized to work on this collection. Staff will remain socially isolated. All items will be taken to the middle school gym or Frontier’s entry and organized alphabetically by family. During the week of May 18, families will schedule a time via Signup Genius to exchange school items with personal items. This will allow for devices to be “almost” centrally located for Chris Friedrich and a team to clean, image and essentially prepare for fall 2020.

Certified staff will be under contract through May 22. Staff will finalize academic requirements. Staff will sign up for end of year room “wrap-up.” Staff will have professional development meetings via Google Meet within teams, buildings, departments and district as they end a year like no other in history and prepare to begin another with many unknowns.

The board approved the March minutes, financials and bills.

Business manager Chris Esping presented the five-year capital outlay plan. The plan is based on the new capital outlay funding mechanism the Legislature approved so the district would levy at $3 per 1,000 and projecting a 5.47 percent increase in valuation for new growth in fiscal year 2021 and then a 1 percent increase per year through fiscal year 2025.

The plan puts a freeze on the uniform rotation for two years. Activities director Brent DeBoer feels those uniforms are in good shape. The plan allows for $100,000 in fiscal year 2023 for band uniforms.

Future needs include CTE expansion, middle and high school building expansions, fiber optics line to the athletic complex, Frontier second classroom expansion, bleachers expansion and turf. None of those were included in the five-year capital outlay plan. Other long-range plans include Legacy door access upgrades, high school door access upgrade, HVAC software upgrade for the middle and high school, upgrade the phone system in each building.

The curriculum rotation next year is for new math curriculum.

Operations manager Wayne Larsen has some work he wants to finish this year that would cost $113,551. Those projects include replacing the H7 door at the high school, propane fuel station, concrete work at the high school, fiber optic line to the bus barn/CTE building, variable frequency drive for the high school gym, nine doors on the bus barn and $23,951 that was already spent on new gym floor covering.

The plan also includes $240,000 for roof repairs on Legacy Elementary in fiscal year 2021.

When Esping closes out Venture Elementary next month, she is anticipating $150,000 left that will be transferred to capital outlay.

The board approved the five-year capital outlay plan.

They also approved the second reading of Policy GCDB - criminal background checks.

The board approved the resignations for Courtney Hatch for fourth grade, Jolene Kayser as National Honor Society adviser and Mary Beth Sutton for one-act play. They also approved the new hires of Blair Kuhlman for CTE construction teacher, Molly Sitting for elementary teacher and Amber Olafson as National Honor Society adviser.

They approved the yearly renewal membership with the South Dakota High School Activities Association. They also approved the JK-5 student handbook. The only update was changing wording to say that they serve breakfast rather than specifying what time they serve breakfast.

Lowery reviewed the special education staffing report. The district’s special education child count increased by 19 students on count day Dec. 1. The district assumes it will receive additional funding next year, but at the current funding level. With the needs in the district, the board approved increasing staff by two certified special education teachers and acknowledge one teacher moving from general fund to special education.

For the Associated School Boards of South Dakota election, three candidates were up for election for the open spot including Terry Crandall from Yankton, Ellie Saxer from Brandon Valley and Tara Johanneson from Tea Area. The board moved to vote for Johanneson.

In committee reports, Brett Waltner reported on Sprouts. All classes are full for next year. Due to the pandemic, the Terrific Two program that was to start in March will start in the fall.

In legislative, Lowery said a date for a Legislature special session has not been set yet but she expects there will be one at the end of June. A change from the last legislative session no longer requires the appraisal part for a land swap between districts. After July 1, she will ask the board to waive the appraisal, which would save the district about $10,000.

For continuous school improvement, Lowery said they have reached out to the district. They are appreciative of the work the district is doing and were intrigued by how young the teaching population is and the e-learning the district has been able to implement during this time.

For teacher of the year, Lowery said TAPTO is working on it. Reliabank and other businesses have kept their commitment to award the prize for teacher of the year. Later this week the nomination form will be made digitally friendly. Nominations are due April 27.

The board went into executive session at 7:44 p.m.

After executive session, the board moved to approve all certified contracts as presented. All certified employees received a contract unless they had previously resigned. Kristen Daggett and Todd Irvine will be the board’s negotiators.


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