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School forest enrolled into DNR program

NEW ULM — The District 88 School Board voted to approve a Department of Natural Resources School Forest Project resolution Thursday.

The resolution passed by the board supports the enrollment of the school forest into the Minnesota DNR School Forest Program, a partnership between the Minnesota DNR and Minnesota schools. The program provides resources to schools that agree to use the forest for educational purposes.

“We’re working with the DNR to provide more learning opportunities,” Superintendent Jeff Bertrang said. “The kids have been going over there for a couple years already, but this will provide more people coming in with lessons and helping work with the kids on different things you can do with a forest and how to keep it sustainable.”

The forested land plot owned by the school district contains approximately 4.87 acres and is located parallel to South Garden Street across from the New Ulm Middle School football field and tennis courts.

The length of the plot follows the NUMS recreational field and its width narrows as it approaches 8th Street South.

The outdoor classroom provides educators the opportunity to expand the curriculum and gives students the opportunity to meet with wildlife experts from agencies such as the DNR who may be invited to lead classes.

Mankato East High School is the only other school in south-central Minnesota with a DNR-designated school forest.

According to the Minnesota DNR’s website, there are more than 135 school forests ranging in size from less than one acre to 300 acres, for a total of 8,000 acres across the state.

Board members also approved:

• The adoption of the 2019-2020 ISD 88 Employee Handbook and the 2019-2020 Substitute Teacher Handbook with a new section added to the employee handbook regarding the wage theft law passed in the previous legislative session. The law requires employers and employees to do more paperwork to follow up about wages and benefits, Bertrang said. The handbook contains a listing that details district policy regarding the wage theft law. The substitute teacher handbook updates language regarding the substitute teacher pay.

• the Annual Brown County Public Health Contract and the 2019-2020 School Health Nursing Contract between the county and the school district for non-public schools. The contract provides health services based on student enrollment projections, Bertrang said. A revised contract based on actual enrollment numbers is expected to be released in January.

• the Food Service Master Agreement for July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2021. The agreement provides more health insurance for food service employees, increases wages up 7.181 percent over a two-year period and service chart to recognize years of service to the district.

The next study session is 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, in the district conference room. The next regular school board meeting is 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, in the district offices boardroom at 414 S. Payne St.

Gage Cureton can be emailed at gcureton@nujournal.com.

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