AURELIA - Aurelia School Board members met with Superintendent Tom Vint on Jan. 22 to discuss some current and future budget, construction, testing, and sharing issues at a "Board Retreat" at the school.
Board member Jim Hultgren, a member of the Board's Finance Committee, discussed the District's past, current, and future financial condition. Although conceding that "predicting the future is impossible," Hultgren stated that the combination of enrollment trends and budget forecasts - both of which are essential components when making future decisions for the District - would seem to indicate that the Board will likely need to make some major decisions in coming years. This year's senior class has an enrollment of 40 students and is by far the largest class in school, with the average grade having an enrollment in the low twenties or high teens. Lower enrollment leads to less money from the state, meaning the Board will have to look at ways to be able to continue to provide a quality education to Aurelia students.
Three options Hultgren mentioned were a. Downsizing - cutting the number of employees for some staff positions; b. A "Core-Plus" program, such as the pilot program Paton-Churdan has been utilizing for the last several years. In this type of program, students would take their "core" courses as usual and the school district would bring in teachers from another district to provide students instruction in some elective courses. Activity programs would continue to be run at the local school; c. Whole-grade sharing, where students (High School, at least) would become full-time students in another District - designated by the Board through a sharing agreement - both in the classroom and in activities.
No decisions were made at this meeting, which was just a discussion meeting. Board members did agree, though, that at some point, the Board needs to give the Administration some direction as to which options to explore.
The Board also discussed the 11 possible projects which Superintendent Vint listed at the last regular Board meting. These are projects for which PPEL or SILO funds may be used, and the Aurelia District has nearly $500,000 in these funds, and by law this money can only be used for projects to improve the physical plant and infrastructure of the school. The Board prioritized using those funds for the following projects in the coming year, and asked Vint to obtain price estimates for the projects following projects. When this is done, the Board will discuss and approve spending for the projects at future meetings.
The projects include air-conditioning the Band and Choir rooms, which have no windows; putting new flooring in the school lunch room; putting a new surface on the playground to replace the "pa gravel" which is there now; putting new plastic seat covers on the seats of the west bleachers in the gym; installing a new sound system in the gym which would provide better acoustics for such activities as plays, special programs, and concerts; and purchasing and installing an attractive fence so that the garbage dumpster in back of the school is not visible to the public.
The Board reviewed ITBS and ITED test scores, and viewed spreadsheets which indicated grade level and growth rates among classes. In general, the Aurelia classes are progressing at a good rate. They want to make sure that teachers are kept advised of students' progress rates also, so that any changes that may need to be made in curriculum are taken care of.
Finally, there was a brief discussion of school sharing, and it was agreed that Superintendent Vint would continue to monitor Aurelia student needs and talk with neighboring districts about possible sharing situations (classes, instructors) as they arise.
The next regular Board meeting is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday Feb. 12, because the Aurelia High School boys basketball team will be playing their opening game of the post-season tournament on the normal Board meeting night (Monday, Feb. 11).