September 17, 2007

Board discusses possible repercussions if levy fails

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

The Dassel-Cokato School Board decided Monday on at least four possible consequences for the district if the Nov. 6 levy doesn’t pass.

With the levy committee in full swing, Kevin Bjork, board member and committee member, explained they would like to know what the implications would be if the levy did not pass for the third year in a row.

Approximately $280,000 will need to be trimmed from the 2008-09 budget.

“The ‘soft’ cuts were gone awhile back,” said Jeff Powers, superintendent.

With the help of the school board members in attendance and the four principals, a list of possible implications were made and they are:

• Decreased course offerings in the high school.

• Class sizes will continue to increase across the district.

• Fewer support services for at-risk and gifted learners.

• Extra and co-curricular activities will be reduced or eliminated.

Coming in early October, a required mailing will be sent to residents of the district.

The mailing is required by the state to provide taxpayer information. The board may choose to send out an additional mailing.

At the Sept. 27 meeting, the board will decide on the number of mailings to be sent out and what form they will take.

“We really need the support of the community at this time,” Powers said Tuesday in regards to the upcoming levy.

“We’ve worked hard to listen to the community. We’ve worked hard to make reductions that will least affect the kids’ education, but if we are forced to make additional cuts, the district’s ability to provide a good education for the students will continue to diminish,” Powers added.

One of the district’s efforts to keep reductions as far away from the kids as possible was cutting 2.4 administrative positions, according to Powers.

Before those cuts, the district already had a low administrative expense compared to Minnesota averages, he added.

New grad requirements affect school district

As part of the meeting, Lorene Force, district curriculum director and Cokato Elementary Principal, informed the board of academic requirements by the Minnesota Department of Education.

This year’s fifth graders, or the class of 2015, will be required to complete an Algebra I credit by the end of their eighth grade year. In addition, they will also have to complete an Algebra II course besides the three math credits already required for graduation.

“Expecting this to happen to all students is a big change. We never required all of them to meet that requirement,” Powers said.

Often times, a majority of the students will pass this level of math, but there is a significant number that aren’t at that level, he explained.

Also in effect for the class of 2015 is the requirement that students must earn a biology credit and a physics or chemistry credit as part of the three science credits needed for graduation.

“If our students are going to succeed with these higher demands placed on them, we need more support for them (hire more staff),” Powers said.

Last school year, new state standards for science came into effect in the high school increasing it from six to seven.

This has already forced larger class sizes at the high school level, according to Powers.

Currently, there are 25 percent of high school classes that are above 30 students, according to High School Principal Dean Jennissen.

“In science, this makes it tough,” Jennissen said, referring to large class sizes.

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