Winona Senior High School students identified with disabilities will have another opportunity to show their athletic skills later this year.
The school board on Thursday night unanimously voted to add adapted bowling to the list of activities offered by the high school. Activities Director Casey Indra said that teams will be entered in both the Cognitively Impaired (CI) and Physically Impaired (PI) divisions in the Minnesota State High School League and begin play in late February.
Indra said that he surveys students about the activity offerings every year, and it was clear the district needed additional options in adapted athletics. Winona offers an adapted floor hockey team, but he noted the barriers that prevent some students from being able to participate in that activity due to the nature of the activity itself and the fact that Winona needs to travel at least two hours to the Twin Cities area for road games.
“We are trying to give all of our kids the opportunity to participate in activities,” Indra said. “This is a need that we’ve had for a long time, and for one reason or another, it kept getting overlooked. I’m not going to overlook it any more.”
All of the competitions — unless the Winhawks qualify for the state tournament — will be virtual, which means there is no travel involved. The teams will practice or compete twice a week at Westgate Bowl, which is working with Indra and the district on an affordable agreement.
More information, such as how to register, will be sent to students in the special education program soon.
MSHSL also offers adapted soccer and adapted softball. Board members said they were interested in other athletic opportunities for students with disabilities, and Indra pledged to come back with more information at a later meeting.
In addition to adapted floor hockey and adapted bowling, Winona also sponsors the Special Athletic Competition, which is a day of activities and fun for students identified with cognitive and physical disabilities in Grades K-12.
INTENT TO SELL BONDS: The school board put the final stamp of approval on a process that will use health and safety bonds to address critical air quality issues at Jefferson and Washington-Kosciusko elementary schools by approving a resolution to sell the bonds next month.
The $16 million investment will be used for geothermal dehumidification HVAC projects at the two historic elementary schools. The bonds will be repaid over a 15-year term, structured in a way that will not raise taxes beyond what property owners are already paying now and will give the district flexibility to pursue a voter-approved referendum in the future.
“What drives this forward for me is the critical need to do something about air quality in these two buildings,” board member Karl Sonneman said. “These buildings are very useful. They are very solidly built buildings. They are amenable and adaptable to future 21st century uses. But they need the air quality improvements that are proposed here.”
Two board members continued to vote against the resolution, expressing concern that the decision was being made before the WAPS Community Task Force, which is halfway through its eight meetings, finished its work. Other board members said that this decision does not limit the scope of the task force considering the four questions it has been charged with, which include:
- Based on historical enrollment data, the April 1, 2021 Capacity Report, 2021 Capacity Analysis, May 20, 2021 Facility Analysis Report, and May 11, 2021 District Wide Facility Analysis, what priorities should be considered to address identified needs in the reports?
- What renovating and/or remodeling of existing space would support the creation of 21st Century learning environments from pre-school to post high school and community education programming?
- What financial resources does WAPS have access to in order to accomplish addressing district organization and 21st Century programming needs while remaining financially sustainable and sound?
- What are the optimal uses of WAPS organization, anticipated future needs and what topics will require further study?
More information on the process of selling the bonds can be seen at this link in a pre-sale report prepared by Ehlers.
POLICY ADOPTED: The school board also approved the adoption of WAPS Policy 491 based on COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard adopted by the Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This will require all employees of Winona Area Public Schools to be vaccinated or face required weekly testing. The new policy is linked here.
Director of Human Resources Emily Solheid began collecting the vaccination status of employees before the winter break. She reported that about 65 percent of the employees have complied so far, with more than 93 percent of those reporting indicating they are fully vaccinated.
ORGANIZATIONAL MEETING: The board held its organizational meeting prior to the regular meeting. Nancy Denzer will remain the board chair, while Tina Lehnertz will remain the vice chair. Karl Sonneman is the treasurer, and Michael Hanratty will serve as the clerk. The board also set its regular meeting schedule for the remainder of the year, declared the Winona Daily News as its official newspaper, and made other proclamations in order to conduct their regular business. The agendas for both meetings can be seen at this link.
WATCH THE MEETING: All regular school board meetings are streamed live and recorded on YouTube. Thursday’s meetings can be seen here.