The COVID-19 virus has taken a toll on many around the country, and it’s officially impacted the plans of the Alexandria School Board.

At its regular monthly meeting Monday night, the board delayed facility and elementary boundary changes in light of the virus. Last week, the board met to discuss the best course of action regarding their stance on reducing class sizes, which included boundary changes and remodeling of Woodland elementary school.

“Due to the tremendous amounts of uncertainty our school is experiencing, the board determined the prudent thing to do is to pause any action addressing elementary class sizes or facility changes,” according to a news release.

The board is planning to monitor the uncertainty of the economic effects of COVID-19, including in this part of the state, the district and how it’s impacting local taxpayers. The board’s projections for school enrollment trends and community growth were measured against previous projections.

Board members said they want to ensure a sense of stability for students, staff and families.

“The conditions last fall were very different with signs of community growth and financial stability. We can’t continue to plan in the same way, given the amount of uncertainty we are now experiencing,” said Superintendent Julie Critz. “We must take a more conservative approach to our budget and planning as we monitor conditions over the coming year, at the same time ensuring that we support our students with quality, sustainable programs.”

Not only is the board taking this approach with its students, but also with the faculty.

“I think it’s a wise decision, and I think we have to take into consideration the mental health of our staff,” board member Sandy Susag said. “We’ve asked them to do a whole lot of stuff, and they’ve excelled. They met the challenge, and they don’t need one more. We need to take a step back, take a deep breath and check it out later.”

The board received three bids to remodel Woodland Elementary School, including an apparent low-bidder. However, they rejected all bids for the time being and will address the restructuring plans in the future.

Despite the elementary realignment plan put on hold, Discovery Middle School and Carlos Elementary are accepting bids for a new roofing project. During the March meeting, the board approved the roofing project in long-term financial plans and plans to spread the payments throughout several years. A portion of the board’s budget will go to the roofing payments over the next 10-15 years.

Board sends out COVID-19 survey

The board wants to give its students, staff and families a chance to provide feedback on how distance learning is going through the first few weeks of stay-at-home school. Despite the challenges that the schools face, the results were overwhelmingly positive.

For grades 6-12, 628 students responded to the survey. The board learned that 95.1% of the students have the tools to complete their work from home. The study also said that 59.8% of students think the workload is just right in their classes.

What students are missing is connecting with other students. The survey reported that 24.5% of students wanted more collaborative work with classmates. The survey also documented that 30% of students want more face-to-face time with classmates.

The elementary school survey had 600 responses, where 69.3% of families said that they don’t need more or less of anything at this time. Teachers have been flexible with families and their living situations since the beginning of the distance learning period.

The staff reports were also positive, with 75.6% saying that all is going well so far. The board wants to create more face-to-face interactions with students. There are currently 31 internet hotspots being used for families with internet issues. The board wants to continue providing grace for families, particularliy in grades K-2. The school wants to make sure the families have enough time to work with their kids at home to get their schooling done.

Alexandria public school buses are still delivering up to two meals a day for students who request the service. All meals have been free for students so far.

Other items of note

In the school district’s “Points of Pride” section, the board recognized Matthew Carlsen for winning the Boys Hockey Hobey Baker award. Tom Ellison is this year’s Education Minnesota nominee for the NEA Foundation Awards for Teaching Excellence. The MSHSL awarded the girls basketball team the 2020 Co-Consolation Champions after the cancellation of the consolation championship game. The girls hockey and wrestling teams won the Central Lakes Conference Sportsmanship Awards for the 2019-20 season.