School board report: WAPS Online Academy going well, principal says 

School Board Report Oct. 7

A little more than a month into the school year, the new online learning academy in Winona Area Public Schools is moving along well. 

Jolene Danca, who is serving as the principal of the WAPS Online Academy, gave a brief presentation to the school board at Thursday night’s meeting. 

The WAPS Online Academy is serving a total of 66 students — 15 in Grades K-5 and 51 in Grades 6-12. The numbers have fluctuated slightly since the beginning of the school year, as students and families found their comfort level with the program.

“Some families found out that the rigor of the Edgenuity is quite high, higher than they anticipated,” Danca said. “This is different from what the high school was using last year.”

There are two full-time staff members directly supporting the program, one in charge of the elementary students and one who supports the secondary students. 

Danca said that the two staff members — Melanie Anderson and Jill Nysse — are doing well in communicating with students and families and addressing their needs. 

The district has also a licensed science teacher to assist students with science classes on the platform.

The WAPS Online Academy received provisional approval from the Minnesota Department of Education, but WAPS has a transition plan for making the academy a permanent option for students. It is the only alternative to traditional in-person instruction for the 2021-22 school year. 

BACK PARKING LOT UPDATE: Director of Buildings and Grounds Michael McArdle presented an update on the finished parking lot project, which included a complete reconstruction of most of the back parking lot, new sidewalk patches and an accessible ramp and new walking path to the baseball field. 

The only part of the back parking lot that didn’t get a complete makeover was the music wing parking lot area. That is a newer area of the parking lot and can be addressed with minor repairs and continued maintenance, McArdle said. 

The project was paid for by leftover funds from the $9.42 million referendum approved by the community in the fall of 2018. Those projects were finished on time and nearly $1 million under budget. The reason this additional project was picked was because the $783,000 price tag would be difficult to fit into the Long Term Facilities Maintenance budget. 

There is still some funding left over that McArdle plans to use toward upgrading the clock system in place in all buildings. The total cost of the project exceeds what is remaining, so he is working closely with Wold Architects and Engineers to determine what is a need vs. what is a want.

WAPS SAFE LEARNING PLAN: Superintendent Dr. Annette K. Freiheit said the Incident Command Advisory Team continued to support the current plan COVID-19 mitigation strategies already in place, which include a universal mask mandate during instructional hours and for instructional programming. 

The latest COVID-19 Dashboard update revealed six new positive cases in the district during the week of Sept. 30 through Oct. 6, which led to an additional 19 individuals needing to quarantine. There are a total of 30 positive cases and 67 individuals needing to quarantine so far this school year. 

STUDENT REPRESENTATIVE: The school board unanimously approved the naming of Ruby Hetzel as the Junior Student School Board Representative. 

Hetzel was one of four students interviewed for the position. 

Hetzel will not have a permanent seat at the board table, but will serve as a replacement for meetings that Ella Skranka, Senior Student School Board Representative, is not able to attend. She will work closely with Skranka on offering a student perspective at board meetings and will be ready to take her place at the board table in the 2022-23 school year. 

The WAPS board first added a student school board member in 2019-20, when Cooper Hancock joined the board. Issara Schmidt was the other student representative.