Superintendent Chris Lindholm addressed the Pequot Lakes School Board at the beginning of its Monday, Nov. 16, meeting with a report as the school district switched to full distance learning that day to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

“Our local numbers continue to increase,” Lindholm said. “Last week, we actually reached about 20% of our staff out and almost 15% of our students out in quarantine or isolation, with about 25 positive cases in one week. We simply hit a point where we couldn’t staff our schools adequately and therefore had to make the switch.”

Lindholm told the board that the district staff is “far more prepared” to effectively teach remotely than in the spring, but said the learning model is unlikely to change until local cases are under control.

“The two-week number of new cases per 10,000 in our county, that will be published on Dec. 3, is right now projected to be over 240 per 10,000, which is way beyond the 50 per 10,000 threshold that was recommended in the framework of back in July,” Lindholm said. “Unless things change significantly for the better, we know we are in this mode at least through the holiday season and possibly through the end of the first semester.”

With the shift in the learning model, the district plans to implement some temporary furloughs of staff to reduce expenditures, and the board approved a memorandum of understanding outlining furlough parameters.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

The parameters state that furloughs in hours or positions will be implemented beginning with the least senior staff within each classification. Furloughed staff may be recalled to substitute or add necessary hours based on seniority. Furloughed staff will continue to receive full district-provided benefits.

In other action Monday, the board:

  • Approved its yearly audit report as presented by Caroline Stutsman of BerganKDV. The only material weakness found was a lack of segregation in accounting duties, which Stutsman said is very common in districts of this size.

  • Adopted a resolution supporting the application to the Minnesota State High School League Foundation for a Form A grant to offset activity fees for student-athletes in need. Lindholm thought the grant should be “in the ballpark” of $1,700.

  • Approved a resolution establishing combined polling places at Crosslake City Hall and the Cole Memorial Building in Pequot Lakes. This resolution is approved annually.

  • Approved two donations to the district totaling $4,375, along with one donation to the student activity fund account in the form of a $2,500 grant from the Gene Haas Foundation for the robotics program.

As part of its consent agenda, the board agreed to the hiring of high school guidance counselor (480 hours) Susan Sergent, a leave of absence for fourth-grade teacher Melissa Shepard and the resignations of Community Education Director Rich Spiczka, high school guidance counselor Tracy Tschida and food service worker Sarah Tiegs. Spiczka was hired as Pequot Lakes’ city administrator.

The board’s December meeting will take place Monday, Dec. 14, immediately following its annual truth in taxation meeting.

The meeting was conducted online via Zoom.

Dan Determan may be reached at 218-855-5879 or dan.determan@pineandlakes.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Dan.