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The changes were suggested at the previous school board meeting on March 24, but action wasn’t taken until March 31, when the motion was approved unanimously.

“We got together and looked at facts, and in order to provide meals five days a week, we’d need to be in session five days a week,” said Superintendent Bill Crandall. “And with next week being our break, no one’s really going anywhere right now, so it doesn’t make sense to keep it. Plus it’s distance learning so they’d still have the opportunity to do school work while traveling if necessary. So let’s keep things going.”

Crandall also cited a survey done by the teacher’s union, which found the majority were in favor of the temporary five-day week. No staff are losing benefits or pay due to the distance learning switch.

Students began distance learning on Monday, March 30 by utilizing Chromebooks, home computers and hotspots, if necessary. Crandall said the roll out went “well, considering we pulled it off within a week-and-a-half of planning.”

Two Harbors High School Principal Jay Belcastro said the feedback has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

“We’ve been very methodical in our roll out,” Belcastro said. “There have been some technology adjustments. There was one point where we received close to 80 phone calls in an hour Monday morning due to students not remembering passwords. Every office person was answering the phones and answering questions. It’ll be interesting to see how things continue to go.”

If the district is able to return to in-classroom learning in May, Crandall said they’d shift back to the four-day week schedule.

School board considers 2020-21 budget

The other item on the school board’s docket was a discussion of the 2020-21 budget. Business Manager Sara Girard reported the district’s first draft budget shows a deficit of $285,000.

“The question is how do you want to proceed?” Girard asked. “Do you want to look at reductions, adjustments, what areas do you want us to look at? If you want bigger changes, it’s going to be harder the longer we wait.”

Although the final budget doesn’t have to be completed until June 30, Crandall asked the board to provide some general direction early as it helps each of the schools’ administration teams prepare for the next school year.

Board member Dean Korri said the deficit is “the least of our worries right now, with all the unknowns out there.”

“I think we need to be cautious before we make any big decisions right now,” Korri said. “This is a new reality and it could go either way.”

Other board members noted the district could see big budget changes due to decreased transportation costs because of distance learning and the current cancellation of sports. Girard also said there will be some staffing changes, such as teachers resigning or retiring, which will impact the budget, as well.

Overall, the board directed Girard to continue looking at the budget and present on further findings at the next meeting on April 14.

This content was originally published here.