“The reality for us is that, if we have 20 elementary kids and 20 high school kids who elect to keep learning online because that’s their preferred method, that’s half a million dollars of revenue that we will not get,” Superintendent Gregg Parks told the board at Monday night’s meeting. “The number of kids we have in the building with Pre-K needs to be around 600 to be able to provide all of the programming we need to be successful. If we were to take $500,000 out of that budget I don’t know how we’d do it.”
“That’s a lot of teachers,” board chair Andy Lindow said.
Principal Brian Michaelson said a lot of districts in the region are looking at the option of starting online academies.
“We’re looking at in a few years maybe Nevis could have a virtual academy,” he said. “It’s a lengthy process to get qualified but if we can keep those kids it could pay for itself. Right now we’re at 18-20 kids distance learning in the elementary and about 30 in the high school. We’ve lost some to Minnesota Academy, Blue Sky Academy and Park Rapids is starting up their own now, too. So a Nevis resident can sit at home and go to another school online. We could still keep it to Nevis students only. We’re not looking to gain more kids; we’re looking to maintain those we have.”
Parks said the district is in the infancy stage, a needs assessment. The first step will be sending a questionnaire to online families to see how many plan to continue online school next year and how many are planning to return to the building.
“If we still have a mask rule next year, that’s why some families are going online,” Michaelson said. “If we find we have 20-30 kids wanting online, we could have two people staffing this. There is a lot of tracking with this and weekly progress reports.”
“It used to be kids had to get their butts on the bus and get to school,” board member Ed Becker said. “Now it seems like people have chosen other ways to get their kids educated. Some of them are going to be in this category. If we don’t offer this as a school, and they decide that they are going to keep doing online from now on, they’ll just find a different place to go and we’ll be looking at a big hole.”
“We need consumers, and if we still can provide what they want online, we should look into that,” Andy Lindow said. “Colleges have already seen a ton of online students. We offer a product and some people are not going back to the way things were before.”
Board member Karrin Lindow said she is “way against this.” “That’s a whole different ball game,” she said. “This school has always had a waiting list. Our classes are overfilling. I don’t agree at all.”