RED WING -- Red Wing School Board reviewed the proposed return-to-school plan, but will wait to vote on it until after Gov. Tim Walz provides a much anticipated statewide education directive next week.

Superintendent Karsten Anderson told members Monday, July 20, that if there’s strong sentiment about any component of the plan, he wanted to hear the comments now.

“Transportation and personnel are the two big issues,” Anderson said. Having neighborhood schools, including Jefferson, is another.

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In revisiting the plan released last week, he offered several potential “tweaks”:

  • Instead of Twin Bluff becoming one of four K-6 schools (with Burnside, Sunnyside and Jefferson) make it a K-7 school. Keeping grade 7 in the current middle school would alleviate some transportation challenges; TBMS is walkable; the high school is less so
  • Take full-time, in-person learning out of the mix at Red Wing High School to significantly reduce transportation needs.
  • Open up special transportation busing so general education students ride with their special education peers;
  • Have as many parents drop off their kids at school every day;
  • Convert the school district’s early learning program into a fifth neighborhood school, although this would be problematic.

“I’m getting a sense from the board that at least collectively, it’s something we should pursue” of the general plan, Anderson said at one point.

Then came sticker shock. Finance Director Jackie Paradis said estimated COVID-19 expenses total $875,000.

“Thank goodness I was sitting down,” Board member Jim Bryant said.

Needs include two support staff ($60,000), four more custodians ($160,000), a dean for Jefferson ($85,000) and an additional assistant principal for Red Wing High School ($150,000), food service items for classroom delivery ($15,000), hot spot service ($44,400) and sanitation supplies ($40,000).

One piece of good news, Anderson said: some citizens have pledged $50,000 for technology infrastructure at Jefferson.

The discussion became heated at times as board members talked about spending the district’s rainy day funds and actually going into deficit spending. They said $1 million might be necessary to bring students safely back into buildings.

“It’s not the perfect plan. There’s a lot of stuff to do,” Anderson acknowledged. Whatever building configuration is finalized, it will be for the academic year, he said, and everyone should be aware that pandemic response will mean shifting between distance, in-person and hybrid learning modes with 24 hour notice, perhaps several times.

The governor is expected to announce directives no later than the week of July 27. Staff will need some time to digest whatever that announcement means for Red wing, Anderson said, but then action will be needed before the board’s regular session Aug. 3. Board members set special meeting dates of 6 p.m. July 28 and 10 a.m. July 31.