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School COVID plans working, Bertrang says

NEW ULM — The District 88 School Board received an update from Superintendent Jeff Bertrang on health conditions related to COVID.

The school has had staff and students test positive for COVID. Some have been in close contact with positive cases, requiring isolations or quarantine.

The health offices are tracking student health conditions each day. Students are being monitored for COVID symptoms. If a student’s symptoms match, all students in the same household are quarantined. Bertrang said the system is working well for the district.

Bertrang also gave an update on billing issues with the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL). He said there were continued missteps with decision making, finance planning and proactive communication with the schools. The district is dealing with the decision to bring back volleyball and football and how this impacts other fall activities and sports.

“At the same time, we have no idea what the rest of the year calendar looks likes,” Bertrang said. “What does the traditional winter sports calendar look like.”

Several schools in the state are upset with the MSHSL for adding fees called “COVID installments.” MSHSL is anticipating a budget deficit because of the cancellation of tournaments and the loss of revenue and is assessing each school district a fee to recover the loss. This had led to a significant increase in the cost of membership. If District 88 were to pay these fees, it would see a 500% increase from last year’s membership fee.

Bertrang said the district will pay its fair share to MSHSL, but will not pay extra money until changes have been made.

Board member Matt Ringhofer asked if this COVID fee was being charged around the state. Bertrang said it was being charged to other schools. He believes MSHSL made the decision assuming schools would pay the increased fee through COVID funding, but that funding was being used for school programming and school needs.

Other athletic concerns revolve around spectators. The Department of Health does have requirements for sports spectators. No spectators are allowed for indoor sports at schools, and other facilities, like the Civic Center, could be impacted.

Bertrang said staff is working on streaming options to allow people to watch the volleyball games. If this works, streaming could be available for basketball games.

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The board approved the 2021 preliminary levy at the maximum level.

The maximum is currently set at $8.5 million which is a change of 1.85% from last year. This levy is an estimate based on current calculations from the state. Bertrang said it is assumed to be close to final figures. The final levy must be approved before the end of the year. The final levy can be reduced but cannot be increased.

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The next regular school board meeting is 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, in the District Boardroom, 414 S. Payne St., through teleconference or electronic means.

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