School board approves 2019-2020 calendar, sets budget public hearing, talks staff and facilities needs

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Spencer School board around conference table at meeting

The Spencer School Board was busy Tuesday night.

At its monthly regular meeting, the board approved next school year’s calendar, set a public hearing for next year’s budget and talked staff and facilities needs caused by expected enrollment increases.

2019-2020 calendar approved

Superintendent Terry Hemann presented the recommended calendar (PDF) for next school year, which the board unanimously approved.

Hemann said the calendar keeps teachers in their classrooms more.

“We believe that it promotes the best classroom instruction with more of the regular teacher being in the classroom,” he told the board.

Next year’s calendar has 1,127 school hours compared to this year’s 1,114 hours. It has fewer days, though, with 169 compared to 177.

The hours increase because of a change in school start time across the district. School days now will start at 8:15 a.m. rather than 8:30 a.m. Spencer Middle School already starts its days at 8:15 a.m.

The calendar also removes all 12:30 p.m. dismissals. Teachers also have nine full days of inservice work, with eight of the nine being on Mondays.

Hemann said the regular inservice days of no school will allow families to plan more consistently. He suggested it would create opportunities for appointments and other regular needs for students outside of school.

Budget public hearing scheduled

The school board will hold a public hearing and vote on next year’s district budget at its March 26 meeting.

The proposed tax levy in the budget is $13.01. That continues the trend of decreasing levies.

“From about 2009 to 2017, we’ve been in that $14.50 to $14.60 (range),” Jolynne Eilts, business manager and board secretary, said during the meeting. She added that in 2018 the levy rate was $14.10 and in 2019 was $13.50.

One reason the levy is decreasing again, Eilts said, is that it will soon pay off its general obligation bond on the new middle school. That’s about five years early.

“Which has saved us a nice amount of interest, as well,” Hemann said.

The board also set a budget amendment public hearing to follow the regular budget hearing in March.

Additional staffing requests made

Already stretching personnel, Spencer schools is looking at future enrollment increases and the need for more staff.

On Tuesday, the board approved adding the following new certified staff positions:

  • First grade teacher at Johnson Elementary
  • Literary teacher/coach at Johnson Elementary
  • Second grade teacher at Fairview Elementary
  • Language arts teacher at Spencer Middle School
  • Special education teacher at Spencer High School

The board also approved adding a new administrative position: director of student services.

Hemann said even the district’s conservative enrollment increase estimates suggest the district can support the additional staff.

District working with architects on future facilities needs

Spencer school officials are working with CMBA Architects on how they can start planning to address the district’s need for more room at its facilities.

“We really have a need in our elementary schools for additional space, additional classrooms,” Hemann said.

He said the soonest any new facilities could be ready would be 2021 as the district would have to prepare and plan for how those facilities would be funded.

“By that time, we’re already falling behind on space at the other buildings, too,” Hemann said.

Board president Bob Whittenburg said the district can take time to think through its facilities needs.

“It’s a bigger picture question, too, because it’s not just one building,” he said.

CMBA is scheduled to address the board at its March 12 work session at 4 p.m.

Hemann says public school funding still “below what’s needed”

Though Gov. Kim Reynolds recently signed legislation increasing 2019-2020 public K-12 schools funding by about $90 million, many across the state have said it’s not enough to cover costs of educating the state’s K-12 students.

Spencer Superintendent Terry Hemann is among those officials.

“It’s nice that it’s done early,” Hemann said during Tuesday’s board meeting. “It’s still a level of funding that’s below what’s needed to fund schools.”

Correction: This article has been updated to correctly state how soon the school district is paying off its general obligation bond on the middle school.

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