ELLSWORTH — As the Ellsworth School Board approved in-person learning in last week’s meeting, it was fitting that it met in-person at the high school Monday night — the first time that happened since March.
Key topics of discussion revolved around compensation for teachers, administration and support staff, as well as fees charged for certain courses.
In regards to the latter, concerns arose about the nature of the class fees at the high school level. For example, students wishing to take Foods I or II are expected to come up with the $25 class fee when registering for the course. Fees are as low as $10 for classes such as Digital Photo or Graphic Art and go as high as $25 in food courses or many of the art offerings.
Board member Gary Kressin questioned whether it was fair for the district to charge for certain classes while others are offered free of charge.
“I get hung up on the equity of this,” Kressin said. “A calculus book that has a seven-year life cycle or whatever it may be; we don’t require students to pay their share on that book.”
High School Principal Mark Stoesz responded that the primary reason for class fees is due to the unique circumstances around those courses. He said that items created in these specialized classes are typically either consumed by the students in class, given to someone as a gift or brought home for further use. The key differentiator being that students can continue to use something they’ve built after the class has ended or directly consume prepared food.
Stoesz also informed board members that payment of fees has never been a problem raised by students or families.
“During my years as principal, we’ve never had a student that couldn’t make a food item because they couldn’t pay the fee,” Stoesz said.
Board members voted 4-2 to keep the class fees in place for the upcoming school year. Kressin and Katie Feuerhelm voted against the motion.
Last school year, the district collected $16,285 during the three quarters of in-person learning for courses with a fee. In the 2018-19 school year, the district collected $18,695.
In other news …
Superintendent Barry Cain provided an update on virtual learning enrollment. As of Monday night, 108 students throughout the district have enrolled in online education. Families are being asked to let the district know by Aug. 19 whether students will be attending in-person or virtual. That date is not a hard deadline however.
The board approved the district’s new policy in reference to updated Title IX regulations. In lew of the more thorough procedures involved with potential sexual harassment claims, Cain said all administration will be trained in the policy. All other employees will be briefed on the new policy.
Teachers will receive a 3.25% boost in compensation for the upcoming school year. This equates to roughly $459 per person. Administration and support staff will receive a 3% increase.