Aitkin School

After reviewing the survey done with district parents following spring distance learning, the Aitkin Independent School District moved forward with filling a technology gap July 20.

The board agreed to purchase 300 iPads for use in grades K-5, 300 cases for the iPads and 100 Tred Sleeves for laptops in order to make technology available to students.

Superintendent Dan Stifter said the survey showed that, while internet connectivity was an issue in some places, so was the lack of technology in given homes – either because of children trying to use the same equipment or just a lack of a computer.

The cost includes $88,200 for the iPads, $10,485 for the cases and $3,052 for the laptop sleeves.

The costs will be covered by money the district has received from federal CARES act funding.

The decision on whether to return to school in full, employ distance learning or use a hybrid model is expected later this week. At the board meeting, the general consensus from the board was that students should be back in school.

In other action at the school board meeting:

• The board approved hiring Kaitlyn Blake as the new coach of the Aitkin All-Starz dance team.

A proposal was before the board to hire Blake and Andrea Zasmeta as co-head coaches, but school board member Joe Ryan raised objections to the idea of co-head coaches, saying it could lead to a lack of accountability.

“I think it’s a bad precident to set,” Ryan said. “Who’s going to be responsible?”

Blake will replace Kate Schmaltz, whose contract was not renewed March 16. Parents, dancers and other coaches filled the library at that meeting, some showing support for Schmaltz and others disagreeing with her coaching style.

• The contract for providing post-secondary education options (PESO) classes through Central Lakes College was approved.

The cost is $236 per credit hour per student, with the district covering the cost through state mandates. If students pass the course, they earn college credit.

• After her resignation in June, Kelly Blake was rehired to teach part-time at the high school.

• The school board discussed briefly the document that will be used should fall sports not complete a full season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The document, provided by the Minnesota School Board Association will help break down pay for coaches based on the percentage of the season completed.

• The district also established dates for people to file to run for school board. The starting date to file was Tuesday, July 28, and it will run through Tuesday, Aug. 11.

• The board tentatively agreed to hold a garage sale at the school farm site to get rid of old furniture and materials, but a date has not yet been set. The discussion was to agree to have a sale.

• The board approved the food costs for food, milk and bread. The bids set the prices that both sides have agreed to, but do not lock the district into a contract if students do not return to school.

• The board agreed to and held a work session Monday, July 27, to discuss the possibility of having a capital projects levy.

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