August 13, 2020
ISD 2142 moves to start schools depending on COVID-19 cases
At a special ISD 2142 board meeting Tuesday, Aug. 4, at 5:30 p.m., held virtually via Zoom from the District Office in Virginia, the board had five options to choose from depending on the number of COVID-19 cases. The option chosen was for 0-9 cases in the district and called for in-person learning for all students. A total of 139 teachers responded to a survey with all but seven saying they intend to return. There were 782 survey responses from parents with 858 students saying they would return, 182 saying "no" and 240 not sure.
The five proposals dealt with 0-9 COVID-19 cases in the county, 10-19, 20-29, 30-49, and over 50. Requirements for in-person and hybrid learning include having a masking policy, routines of hygiene education and practices, PPE for direct support student services, a building COVID-19 coordinator, limiting non-essential visitors, discontinuing large gatherings, monitoring and excluding for illness, daily cleaning and frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces throughout the day. Required for hybrid learning is social distancing of 6 feet in school buildings, 50 percent capacity, transportation at 50 percent, and sufficient staffing levels.
All of the schools in Aitkin, Carlton, Cass, Cook, Itasca, Lake, Pine and St. Louis would apparently be under the in person learning.
The policy for in person for elementary and hybrid for secondary (10 to 19 cases) would not affect any. International Falls, Littlefork/Big Falls, and Nett Lake in Koochiching County (20-29) would use the hybrid for all. Hybrid learning for elementary and distance learning for secondary (30-49) would not affect schools in this area, nor would distance learning for all (50 plus).
The five models listed were produced by the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Education. At the Zoom special meeting on Aug. 4, the ISD 2142 board had a long debate about this and finally voted 4-2 to go with the first option, which was for in-person learning for all students, having a masking policy, routines of hygiene education and more. Students can opt out of the in-person learning and choose distance learning from home if they want. There were six board members in attendance on Zoom with Lynette Zupetz of Cherry absent. Pat Christensen of Orr, Dan Manick of Cook, Chet Larson of Cotton and Troy Swanson of Tower voted for this proposal. Chris Koivisto of Northeast Range and Christine Taylor of South Ridge voted against it. This means the schools will be opening in September, but under some strict regulations. Word also came down from the Minnesota State High School League that football and volleyball seasons will be postponed until the spring.
Gov. Tim Walz, on July 30, issued Executive Order 20-82 and the Safe Learning Plan which set forth the five Learning Models and authorized all school districts in Minnesota to select and implement an appropriate base Learning Model in accordance with and subject to the Safe Learning Plan. The Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Education may continue to issue written guidance for Minnesota Schools on educational issues and health issues related to COVID-19.
At the special meeting, the board approved the resolution designating the first proposal and having Supt. Reggie Engebritson implement such proposal. Unless the number of COVID-19 cases increases over nine, the model for starting schools in ISD 2142 will call for in-person learning for all students. The number of cases of COVID-19 for St. Louis County (per 10,000) as of this time is 5.5, with 2.75 for Pine, 6.62 for Lake, 25.31 for Koochiching, 9.29 for Itasca, 1.88 for Cook County, 5.86 for Cass, 5.06 for Carlton and 5.05 for Aitkin.
School districts could have financial problems due to the number of students who say they won't come back. ISD 2142 has 182 who say they won't come back and at $9,000 income per student that amounts to around a $1.7 million loss in income. ISD 2142 is one of the school districts in better shape financially so far.
AFSCME Council 5 opposes proposed plan to close Togo/Thistledew Camp and Willow River DOC facilities
The Minnesota Department of Corrections announced last week that they plan to shutter two correctional facilities - Togo and Willow River - as early as next year. If implemented, this plan will force 100 AFSCME members out of their jobs - just when working families can least afford to lose their livelihoods.
"These workers are on our front lines and deserve our thanks and admiration for their work, not lay-off notices," said AFSCME Council 5 Executive Director Julie Bleyhl.
Even DOC Commissioner David Schnell acknowledges that the timing of these layoffs is "brutal."
In addition, these closures will deprive inmates of the rehabilitation services that are the center of the programming at Togo and Willow River. Both facilities operate Minnesota's Challenge Incarceration Program, a minimum security boot camp program that allows non-violent offenders who qualify to earn early release. Transitioning these programs to other facilities will delay or even restrict inmates' access to the opportunity to turn their lives around.
"The Challenge Incarceration Program remains one of our state's most effective programs to reduce recidivism and prison re-entry," said Bleyhl.
The DOC reports that it faces a $14 million budget deficit and uses this shortfall as justification for these closures.
Save back-to-school shopping receipts to claim valuable tax benefits
ST. PAUL, Minn. The school year may look and feel a little different this fall, but parents can still claim valuable K-12 tax benefits by saving receipts on school supply purchases this year.
"Every year, parents across Minnesota invest in their children's education by purchasing school supplies," said Revenue Commissioner Cynthia Bauerly. "This year, distance learning may have changed the nature of these investments, but parents should still keep receipts for these purchases, including distance learning needs, and claim the K-12 Education Credit or Subtraction to help save money when it comes time to file taxes in 2021."
Two tax benefits can help Minnesota families pay expenses related to their child's education: the refundable K-12 Education Credit (income limits apply) and the K-12 Education Subtraction (no income limits). These programs reduce the tax parents pay and could deliver a larger refund when filing a Minnesota income tax return. To qualify, the purchases must be for educational services or required materials. The child must be attending kindergarten through 12th grade at a public, private, or home school and meet other qualifications. Last year, more than 36,000 families received the K-12 Education Credit and saved an average of $251. Nearly 192,000 families received the K-12 Education Subtraction.
Save those receipts
Remember to save your receipts to claim the credit or subtraction. Most expenses for educational instruction or materials qualify, including:
· Pens and notebooks
· Rental or purchases of educational equipment such as musical instruments
· Computer hardware (hotspots, modems, and routers) and educational
software (up to $200 for the subtraction and $200 for the credit) *
· After-school tutoring and educational summer camps taught by a qualified
*Fees for internet service do not qualify
Household Income for the K-12 Education Credit
Number of qualifying children in K-12 / Household income must be less than
1 or 2 $37,500
4 or more Add $2,000 for each additional child
Taxpayers who are not required to file an income tax return must do so in order to claim a refund for any eligible education credit.
K-12 Education Subtraction
There are no income limits to qualify for the education subtraction. Most parents qualify. Parents can claim the K-12 Subtraction for tuition paid to private schools or college courses used to satisfy high school graduation requirements.
Check out the Minnesota Department of Revenue video to learn more about the K-12 education tax credit.
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