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September 27th, 2020

hatcher and foreman usd 480USD 480 school board member Nick Hatcher and USD 480 Vice President Sarah Mersdorf-Foreman ask a question during one of the action items at the board’s most recent meeting Monday night. L&T photo/Elly GrimmELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


Many entities are approving their annual budgets and Monday evening, USD 480 joined those entities, with the first item on the USD 480 school board’s agenda being to approve the 2020-2021 budget. 

“Overall, we’ve stayed pretty stable with most of those line items, which I’m happy about because it helps with some future planning. Then in our official notice that will be in the media, you can see we’re proposing a total mill levy of 51.199, and last year’s was 51.424, so we’re dropping the mill levy a little bit, which is great,” USD 480 Director of Business Jerry Clay said during the budget workshop at the board’s July 20 meeting. “We’ve actually been able to reduce the mill levy the past two years and still accomplish what we need to as a district, which we should be proud of. And I would also point out we were able to do everything we needed to with a decrease in the assessed valuation we say, that went down about $6 million. We also have some CARES Act funding coming to us we’ll need to decide how to use. Overall I’m pleased with how the budget is put together for this year and there was a lot of hard work that went into all of this.” 

“I want to thank everyone who helped put this together, you all did a great job,” USD 480 Board President Alan Brown said during Monday’s meeting. 

“I agree, everyone did a phenomenal job,” board member Nick Hatcher added. 

After unanimously approving the budget, the board then discussed the sale of some property near the former South Middle School building. 

“As a condition for conveying to the city that vacant property, which is at Pine Street west of the old South Middle School building, the City has agreed to convey to USD 480 Lots 1, 2, 3 and 12, Block 8, Airport Industrial Park Addition to the City of Liberal, for the sum of $39,700,” Clay said. “It is possible the city may want to modify some of the terms of this contract and if that’s the case, I am sure the city attorney will communicate to Mr. Yoxall any changes the city may wish to have.”

“I think we should keep in mind some of the other properties in that area should we need to expand some things,” Hatcher added. “I know we’ve been talking for a long time about needing another bus barn, so I think if there comes the time where we need to buy some property, we need to keep our minds open with that.”

The board also unanimously approved the Remote Learning Assurances for the 2020-2021 school year. 

“USD 480 assures Remote Learning Curriculum and Instruction will coincide with each student’s on-site classroom to ensure that when a remote learning student returns to the on-site classroom that he or she is able to make a seamless transition. In addition, remote learning students will be assessed on the same standards and competencies as the On-Site students using each and all progress, academic and social-emotional monitoring assessments as on-site students,” the agreement noted. “USD 480 assures remote learners will have at least one meaningful daily connection with a local teacher. In addition, remote learning students will have ready access to all local content teachers throughout each week and student questions will be answered within 24 hours during school days, preferably the same school day if possible. USD 480 assures each remote learner’s daily activity logs are made available to local teachers to assist monitoring student’s academic progress. In addition, the daily logs will be made available to KSDE auditors. Finally, the district assures the daily logs will be completed by the student and student’s parent, guardian or responsible adult and not pre-filled by the district or school. There are two instances in which a daily log would not be required: (1) The district provides remote learning services by streaming live video of the student’s on-site class/es and local teacher(s) take attendance as normal and therefore a daily log is unnecessary and (2) A school building is closed for on-site learning and Remote Learning services are provided by local teachers who can and do take attendance as normal/the same as on-site classes.

“The overall general outline of this will remain the same for all buildings, but there will be some specific differences based on the age groups and the building,” Superintendent Renae Hickert. “And with the ‘meaningful connection,’ that could be a phone call, an e-mail, any form of communication by which the student can get ahold of their teacher.” 

The board also unanimously approved a new bus driver position and the renewal of Microsoft for $54,928.12, which is the same amount as last year’s renewal. After that, the board also unanimously  approved the USD 480 Academy handbook. 

The board also discussed some of the measures to be taken as a result of COVID 19 (which are available to view on It was emphasized the measures are a result of work between the district and the Seward County Health Department. 

“With this what are the consequences if there is a student who comes in without a mask?” Brown asked. “With something like that, I feel it’s basically impossible to enforce if there are no consequences in place. And if a student does end up getting sent home because of that, then the parent has to get involved and come pick them up, and then ultimately, how are they supposed to get their education if they’re sent home? Also, what is our nurses situation?”

“And overall, is there anything else we can do to help you in that process?” Hatcher asked. “Do you have all the necessary tools and supplies in order to make the school days as normal as possible for everyone?”

Liberal High School Principal Ashley Kappelmann said some of those things are still being fine-tuned as the school year approaches. 

“With the nurses, every building will have a school nurse, and there will also be some reconfiguring going on so the high school has two since we’re so big,” Kappelmann said. “We’ve also come up with a couple different options for if there does end up being a positive case at LHS, we’ll be deciding whether to shut the entire building down for a few days in order for everything to get sanitized and cleaned, or it’s possible we’ll decide to temporarily shut down just the section of the building that particular student or staff member was in. The main thing is we want as few interruptions as possible so our students can get their education.”

After unanimously approving the Memorandum of Understanding for SPARKS funds between the district and Seward County, the board concluded the meeting’s new business.

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