Colo-NESCO School District, along with all other schools across Iowa, will be closed for the remainder of the academic year. As a result, during its meeting last week, the school board took several steps in ensuring the district’s continual learning plan is in place.

The board approved the school’s closure, approved the school’s Voluntary Continuous Learning Plan with certified staff providing distance learning opportunities, and also approved a motion in which hourly employees will continue to be paid through the closure.

The district will also submit a “Return to Learn Plan” by July 1.

The board also approved agreements with Piper/Sandler for assisting in selling the GO Bonds, an agreement with Youth and Shelter Services for the 2020-2021 school year, as well as an agreement with Braun Intertec for soil testings and borings for the upcoming construction project at a cost of $8,350.00.

The board certified the 2021 Fiscal Year Levy at $12.77, which was 68 cents lower than previously anticipated at the time of the recent bond election. The district’s tax rate in FY 2020 was $10.75 and combined with the voter-approved $2.70 Go Bond, the rate could have gone as high as $13.45.

School Business Manager Lisa Stewart stated the district had adequate funds so it is not anticipated more funds would need to be raised.

Other budget items discussed included a $600 increase with the district’s teachers’ association on the base salary (a 2.71% increase from last year). The same increase was recommended for support staff and administration as well.

The board also approved a budget guarantee to protect employees of the district if an across-the-board cut occurs due to the COVID-19 virus, and the district’s proposal that health insurance would be offered to employees at $750 to the district (employees will receive two options).

The board reviewed some initial designs for construction or renovation of the district’s facilities with Superintendent Jim Walker and director of buildings and grounds Bill Lytle. After viewing the designs for the Colo building, the board discussed the need for a family restroom near the gym and cafeteria, the drop-off and pick-up of students, and parking for staff, students and visitors.

Discussions around the Zearing building centered around placement of classrooms, as well as the restrooms’ placement to keep a compliant adult/student ratio when an adult must escort a student to the restroom. The board asked ISG to consider a ramp in the Zearing building as opposed to an elevator, due to the initial and future maintenance costs.

In addition, the board discussed possibly moving the Zearing playground to the north side of the new construction, which would alleviate the need for students to cross a street to the playground. It was determined not to move the playground currently, but to leave a green space to possibly do so in the future. There were discussions of moving the third and fourth grades to the Colo building during the 2020-2021 school year renovation.

Administration informed the board that they would like to move forward with asbestos removal as well as demolition of the three-story building in Zearing this summer. As of now, administration would like to begin new construction by late fall of 2021.

During superintendent comments, Walker mentioned the city of Zearing gifted property just west of the Zearing water tower to the district. The district will cover legal fees for the property and plans to use it as a staging area during the construction phase.

The next regular school board meeting will be held on Monday, May 18, at 6:30 p.m. in the Colo ICN room. Attendance will be limited to board members and administration due to the COVID virus. The public may access the meeting via Zoom. The link will be posted with the agenda of the next meeting.