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With interest rates about as ….

 

With interest rates about as low as they have ever been, many school districts are jumping at the opportunity to finance debt.

The Ellsworth Community School District moved in that direction at its meeting last Monday night, and the measure means a savings of over $1 million.

The board was told by its bonding agent, Robert W. Baird, that the district has good credit and is well-managed. The district is refinancing its debt at an interest rate of 1.67 percent.

“Obviously this is great news,” said

See ELLSWORTH, Page 8 Superintendent Barry Cain.

School board members concurred.

“This is just great news for the Ellsworth community,” said Gary Kressin.

Board President Doug Peterson commented, “It’s great to get the feedback that were improving on our district credit, and there’s so much interest out there in working

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with the district.”

The board unanimously approved refinancing $23,747,000 in general obligation bonds.

After that dose of good news on the financial front, the board apologized to a parent of a middle school student who appeared to express concerns about her son being bullied.

She said that her son had been subjected by classmates to humiliating acts like being put in the garbage and an attempt to put his head in the toilet.

The student has since open-enrolled to a different school district.

“He’ll be going to a nearby school district where he’ll get a fresh start in life,” his mother told the board.

She said she was appearing before the board because of the bullying problem but mostly because of at least five students who witnessed the bullying and did nothing about it.

“Bullying needs to be taken seriously,” she said. “Saying nothing is just as bad as partaking.”

“I’m solely here because of the actions of those five students,” she said. “Strong people stand up for themselves. Strong people stand up for others.”

The family worked with school administrators on the problem.

“I really appreciated everything you brought to our attention and working with you on this,” said Cain. ” I wish (the student) the best. No students should feel unsafe when they walk in our building.”

“It’s unfortunate to hear those things happening to our students,” Peterson said, as he apologized on behalf of the district.

Others concurred.

“This is not what we want to hear, but it’s what we need to hear,” said board member Katie Feuerhelm.

Enrollment The district has 1,640 students in its official state enrollment count, done the third Friday of September.

That breaks down to 712 students in the elementary school, 419 in the middle school and 498 in high school.

St. Francis Catholic School which feeds into the middle school after grade five has 69 students.

Overall on the year, Cain said things are going well, though COVID-19 is certainly making things difficult.

“We’re muddling through,” he said.

The district is considering a “slight change” in its schedule that was being discussed at a special meeting set for Oct. 21.

The difficulty is teachers having to help inperson and online students.

“We’re considering some changes beginning with the second quarter,” said Cain.

Cain said that about 13 percent of students attend school online, and families are being surveyed to see if any of those students are going to attend in-person starting with the second quarter.

Also, there are some virtual students that are going to be required to come in-person because the online work is not being done.

“We have had a percentage of families that are not engaging adequately,” said Cain. “Some students are falling further and further behind. They aren’t being successful.”

Cain also told the board that the district will have continued problems getting substitute teachers this year, and that if there are changes in the school year, they likely will be because of staffing issues, rather than student issues.

The district pays substitutes $125 per day, and Cain pointed out that the Hudson School District reportedly is increasing its sub pay to $200 per day, which is close to the pay level of Ellsworth’s first-year teachers: “This substitute teacher shortage is playing out here every day,” he said.

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