The Siren Board of Education met on Monday, Aug. 23, and while they had a light agenda, they none the less revealed that they have been the recipients of several lucrative state grants, affecting everything from homeless kids to mental health and substance abuse, totaling over $85,000 and allowing them to add or continue several programs for the next several years.

One of the grants is from the state Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and amounts to over $71,000. 

“It’s similar to one (a grant) from two years ago,” stated principal Darrell Imhoff, who added that it will allow them to re-hire a student success coordinator, have professional presenters and seek other resources for mental health-based assistance and hire that person for four days a week.

The other grants the district received include a $14,100 alcohol and other drug abuse (AODA) program grant for this coming year, and a likely repeat for the next year for a similar amount. It will allow them to hire an extra-duty position, have presenters and resources focused on for AODA and its effects.

The district also was notified of receiving a special grant from the DPI Homeless Children and Youth, totaling $10,000 annually for up to three years, totaling $30,000.

“(It includes) Resources to assist homeless students and families everything from gas cards to mental health assistance,” Imhoff stated. “We do see a need for our homeless students.”

In other board action:

• District administrator Dr. Kevin Shetler outlined portions of the district re-opening plan for the coming school year, which is slated to start in just a few days, and follows pretty close to what they approved at their most recent meeting: making face coverings optional, continuing pandemic social distancing practices and the like, but continuing to require face coverings on all district transportation, per federal mandate.

The only real changes come from alleviating school principals from some of the quarantine enforcement and restrictions, pushing much of that back onto the state or county health departments.

“We’re still waiting on the (Burnett County) quarantine plan, Shetler said. “The only real difference is that the positive cases will be quarantined for ten days.”

He said the new re-opening plan will be posted on the district website, and he stressed that while face coverings will not be required, they will be encouraged across the district.

“But again, not required,” Shetler stressed. 

There was some discussion but no real details on how the district plans to deal with vaccinated students and staff, should they nonetheless register a ‘positive’ test.

“If you’re vaccinated, you will be treated differently (with a positive),” Shetler stated.  

The new plan also changes parameters and definitions on so-called ‘close contacts,’ with the county health department taking the lead, instead of principals or other administrators.

“We’re getting out of the business of shutting a whole class down,” Imhoff said. 

• Several administrators noted that there seems to be an influx of new students at the younger grade levels, while was greeted as very good news for the staff and district.

“We have several new, large families enrolling,” stated elementary principal Carrie Herman. “It’s very exciting!”

• Issues with a spotty walk-in cooler and refrigeration system will be solved with a move to replace the unit outright, for just under $30,000.

“I know we lost a lot of food last year, with this refrigerator going in and out,” stated board member Trish Needham-Barnes.

The work is being paid for through their buildings and grounds account, on money previously earmarked for gymnasium line repainting, and other work. The project also will need some extensive electrical work, but should be completed by the time school begins.