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District hears plans for distance learning

NEW ULM — New Ulm Public Schools will be transitioning to Distance Learning, starting Nov. 30 until Dec. 11.

The District 88 School board received an update on learning plans from Superintendent Jeff Bertrang at their work session on Thursday.

The school will be closed the week before as part of the Thanksgiving holiday. Monday, Nov. 23 and Tuesday, Nov. 24 will be transitional days for staff to prepare for the new learning model.

“The issue we have is staff,” Bertrang said. COVID transmission is not being seen in the schools, but quarantining has impacted staffing. “We just can’t keep enough of the staff at the level to run programs.”

The hope is the two weeks of distance learning will give the district staff enough time to quarantine. The school is also encouraging staff to get a COVID test after Thanksgiving. This will give the district an idea of how many quarantines can be expected after December 11. This will help determine whether the school could return to an in-person model or hybrid model after December 11.

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Plans for the regional Career Technical Education (CTE) Center are moving forward. Superintendent Jeff Bertrang said a recent meeting was held with the architect to walk through the site for the center. The district is planning to lease the former Windings building near 3M. Some remodeling is needed for the building, but special contracts are needed since the building is being leased to the district.

When complete, the center will provide students and adults with education in the areas of manufacturing, machining, construction, automotive repair, small gas engines and autobody repair. Construction education would include training for plumbing, electricians and carpentry work. The center will give hands-on learning and provide opportunities for adults who may be considering a career change.

Bertrang said several local groups have supported the project including New Ulm Development Corporation, New Ulm Area Chamber, the City of New Ulm and the New Ulm Economic Development Authority (EDA). The EDA recently approved a $100,000 grant for the CTE program.

The school board anticipates signing a lease for the building in January. There is a tentative timeline to open the center for students in August.

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The school board official recognized Eagle Enterprise as a school group. Eagle Enterprise is a work-study program created by the High School’s CTE Department. The program is designed to fill the skill gap in the community by providing work experience, industry-level training and career plan development for students. The program is a student-run business for upper-level students. The students work on projects in the community and earn money for the program. This money is set aside for student scholarships through a non-profit 501c3. Recently the Eagles Enterprise established bylaws for the non-profit.

The school board does not have a say in the bylaws because it is a separate entity from the school, but the board can recognize it as an official group that supports the CTE program.

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The board approved a series of grants, including a $750 grant to 4-H to provide care packages to the elderly in New Ulm; a $5,000 grant to the United Way to provide 25 full-year scholarships of $200 to low-income youth and approval of the final 20% grant for $300 to The Grand for the Summer Creativity Camp and Language/Culture Camp.

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The Truth in Taxation meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3 in the District Conference Rooms. The next regular school board meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 17 in the District Boardroom and through teleconference at 414 South Payne.

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