"The recommendation comes to the board to move to a single site," said Kingsland Superintendent John McDonald, addressing the Kingsland School Board of Directors last Monday, Oct. 21 during the regular monthly school board meeting, at which a recommendation from a special 13-member facility committee - comprised of board members, teachers, activities and grounds directors and district administration - that determined that educating students in a single building is more educationally and financially feasible, was accepted.

The recommendation, the final item on the agenda, was accepted with a unanimous vote, and board chairman Doug Plaehn thanked the staff involved in the process for their input, as the decision was not an easy one to make. See related story for details on the process of combining the educational facilities at a single campus in Spring Valley.

McDonald stated, "The committee discussed this for three and a half hours, and they felt it to be the best expenditure of the dollars we have." He pointed out that the board will hold workshops to "discuss, reflect and revise" the facilities plan proposal, and that "we want to refine the document so that it meets the vision of what the best Kingsland student education and district will be for years to come. We want to bring it to the Nov. 18 board meeting and be sure that it's done well."

Kingsland High School Principal James Hecimovich presented his proposal to implement a high academic rigor open campus program in which students participating in advanced college-level courses are allowed to travel the school's halls as needed to reach the student union or library when they're not in class, essentially giving them the responsibilities of being young adults capable of behaving as such.

"We're in competition with Post-Secondary Education Options - it pulls kids away from the school, and the money follows. Our goal is to keep kids here, so I'm proposing that we allow them to exercise open campus like they are when they go to PSEO," Hecimovich told the board. "I think that since they're essentially college students, we should treat them like the college students they are. There are agreements to be met by the students and parents if they would like to participate. I'd like to start this out and give it a try this year, the next seven months. We have approximately 35 students who qualify for the program, but not all of them will meet the qualifications. There'll be consequences if they're late to class, if their attendance doesn't meet standards, and the parents have the authorization to revoke the privilege whenever they feel it's necessary."

He continued, "We're not going to adjust schedules to make it happen, but if students choose to participate, they have to have the contract notarized or signed in front of the administration or a secretary. And if a parent thinks that their student isn't doing what he's supposed to, he can say, 'I don't think you can handle it.' But we're already working with Riverland on this for College in the Schools (CIS), and I'm hoping to get it started."

Kingsland Elementary and Middle School Principal Chris Priebe reported that the lower grades' professional learning communities (PLC) have begun to meet weekly on Wednesday afternoons and that progress is being made through the teams' collaboration.

Two teams of teachers presented their "Spotlight on Education" updates on how the PLCs have worked to advance student learning and identify what can be done to remediate or challenge students as their skills develop, and the board applauded their efforts to improve education for students at all grade levels.

Priebe also spoke about how well students in grades three through six are handling the responsibility of having iPads, that teacher Brent Stinson attended Project Lead the Way (PLTW) training for the kindergarten through third grade pilot program Oct. 2 through Oct. 4 in Indianapolis and learned how the program should be implemented this year.

In his report, McDonald cited that the district will be receiving funds previously withheld by the state as part of the funding shift in which the state borrowed from its education coffers to pay other bills, delaying promised payments to school districts. Since Kingsland's business manager, Todd Netzke, was not available to share the district's financial standings, McDonald filled board members in on the final levy amount, now set at $1,912,401, which shows a $98,642 decrease from this past year. The district's audit report was to be given at the October meeting, but the auditors were busy at another appointment and should be appearing at the November meeting.

The board extended its appreciation to the Southeast Service Cooperative (SSC) for an incentive grant for health and wellness, to the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) for a $6,000 donation toward the completion of the preschool courtyard, to vision and hearing screening volunteers Elizabeth Rice, Theresa Kohn, Noella Lund, Jean Krahn, Tiffany Mundfrom, Cheryl McDonald and Eric Thiss, to The Salvation Army for its $800 donation toward the school milk program, and to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) for its $150 donation following its use of the district's facilities for a VFW district meeting. In personnel matters, the board hired winter sports coaches and a new School Age Child Care assistant, Rebecca Oakland.

Finally, other facilities developments included the prospective sale of the middle school tennis courts to the city of Wykoff, as the city has expressed an interest in purchasing the little-used courts and turning them into a parking lot for city employees. Wykoff Mayor Lyman Hare was in attendance to hear whether the board would recommend the sale, for which negotiations will begin.

The next meeting of the Kingsland School Board of Directors is set for Monday, Nov. 18, at 6:30 p.m. in the Kingsland High School conference room. The public is welcome to attend. For more information, call the Kingsland district office at 507-346-7276 or log onto the Kingsland website at www.kingsland.k12.mn.us.