by Mike Knaak
A clarified open enrollment policy, lights and seating for high school athletic fields and the long-awaited equity audit report will be on the agenda when the Sartell-St. Stephen school board meets June 21.
Board members discussed the open enrollment policy and improving the high school athletic fields at the June 2 board work session. Monthly work sessions give board members a chance to learn about issues and discuss plans but no votes are taken.
The open enrollment discussion centers around how to define a sibling. Under the current policy, students who have been enrolled in the district for a year can continue in Sartell-St. Stephen schools if the family moves out of the district. When younger siblings reach school age, they can also attend district schools. But what’s a sibling? A blended family or parents living together with no children in common creates a more complicated decision if they move out of the district. One option would be to rule out siblings who haven’t attended district schools.
Before the board meets again, the board’s policy committee will research options as well as the law regarding open enrollment.
The board is considering spending up to $1 million to add lights and seating to two athletic fields at the high school. The money comes from unspent funds in the building bond account that has been saved on lower-than-anticipated expenses and boosted by higher-than-expected interest income on the bond money. If the board approves the expense, the project would be opened for bids. At least the lights could be in place for this fall’s soccer season.
While the current stadium adjacent to Riverview Intermediate School has a newer track, it doesn’t accommodate a full-size soccer field and it’s running out of space for football seating. When the track was improved, the visitor bleachers on the east side of the field were removed.
Equity Alliance MN is expected to present the equity audit and recommendations to the board.
The audit report is arriving about two months later than expected because COVID-related school closings and compiling the vast amount of survey data slowed Equity Alliance’s work.
After the board members review the report, they are expected to form an action plan to address identified issues. The equity effort also includes a district committee to guide and advise the board. A plan for that committee’s role, membership and scope was presented to the board on May 5.
Guiding the equity effort will be one of the first tasks for the district’s new superintendent, Jeff Ridlehoover, who will start July 1.
Although education equity issues that center around race, religion, family economics and gender have been discussed for years, the topic gained momentum after the killing of George Floyd and subsequent debates about systemic racism. After a listening session in June 2020 where students and others shared stories about unfair comments and actions in schools, the school board discussed how to move forward and decided to conduct the audit and hired Equity Alliance. The audit included focus groups, interviews, surveys, classroom visits and data analysis.
The board will meet at 5 p.m. Monday, June 21, in the high school Performing Arts Center.