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Frazee District may offer high school online

The biggest challenge the Frazee-Vergas School District is facing, Superintendent Deron Stender said, is the option of online schooling.

"I'm curious to see what happens to enrollment," he told the school board Monday morning. "The greatest challenge you're going to face in this district is online education."

Open enrollment and post-secondary classes are no longer threats, but online enrollment is.

Stender said the district previously lost five students in one week to online schooling. That figures out to be a $40,000 loss to the district.

There are several schools that offer high school online, and a big lure is the fact that they provide free laptops to the student as well. Stender said that Gov. Tim Pawlenty has even said that if schools aren't offering online class, they're behind times.

"We've got to stop talking and start taking action," Stender said.

For example, he said, Houston, Minn., school has enrollment of about 90 students, but their online enrollment is at about 350, which includes many of the Frazee students that have enrolled online.

Other discussion items at the meeting include:

n Open lunches are being phased into closed lunches for the younger students.

Principal Brian Koslofsky said that when he came to the district last year, he found it "alarming" that all of junior high and high school students have an open lunch, meaning they can leave the school and get lunch elsewhere.

"They are our responsibility," he said.

In the new policy handbook the school distributes to students and parents, Koslofsky is phasing in closed lunch periods for grades 7-10, while grades 11-12 would still have open lunch.

Older students are influencing the younger students, he said, and open lunch periods could have something to do with that.

n A summation of the superintendent's evaluation was given, with overall favorable markings.

Board member Nancy Dashner read in chair Dana Laine's absence that each board member was given a form to fill out where Stender was rated in 10 different categories.

His lowest marks were average of 3.5 (out of 5) for informing the board of progress and activities. A 3.5 is a "meets expectations to very good" performance. His highest marking came with relationships with outside agencies like legislators at 4.6, which is a "very good to outstanding" performance.

The board reviewed the performance evaluation at last month's meeting and individual aspects were discussed and direction was given, Dashner read.

n Regarding the athletic/activities handbook the board approved, board member Rich Ziegler pulled it off the consent agenda to make a comment.

In the handbook, it basically states that students who are at a party are going to get in trouble even if they are not drinking. Ziegler said he doesn't like the guilt by association.

"I understand the rationale, but it's the defense attorney in me -- innocent until proven guilty," he said.

He added that students have to know that if they are in a bad situation, they need to get out of it, but those coming to pick up a friend who has been drinking shouldn't get in trouble for being there.

Stender said those students are given one chance and after that are punished for being there, regardless of if they were drinking or not.

Koslofsky said those involved in athletics and activities are held to a higher standard, which is the reason for the rule.

It's nothing new, though. Board member Dwight Cook said 36 years ago when he was in school, the coaches made it clear that if players were at a party, they would be in trouble even if they weren't drinking.

n The board passed four new procedural policies -- placing and removing items on the agenda, Meet and Confer, school board mentoring and policy review. A procedure for filing vacated school board seats was discussed but tabled until a future board meeting.

n A tentative plan for the twice-monthly school board meetings, which begin next month, is just that, tentative.

More than likely, the board will hold the business meetings, similar to what happens now, the second Monday of each month. The fourth Monday will then be more laid back and serve as an open forum.

There will be time for the communication reports, staff, teacher and student presentations, and even a 15-minute period for the public to come and speak.

Cook said he feels some committee meeting issues can be discussed at the second meeting, a working board meeting, if the topic is big enough.

The meeting will be open to respectful public comments, but the board will not be able to reply if the comments infringe on data privacy.

The two-meeting format will begin Sept. 14 and Sept. 28, both at 6 p.m.