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Wapello schools approve $300 bonuses

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WAPELLO — There will be no lump of coal in the Christmas stockings of Wapello School District employees, following the school board’s approval on Tuesday of a $300 across-the-board bonus for the employees.

According to school officials, there are just under 100 full-time district employees and about a half-dozen part-time employees who will receive the benefit, which will be financed through the district’s remaining ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund) allocation, a part of the federal COVID-19 economic package.

Initially, board member Brandon Marquardt had suggested a $500 payment for full-time staff and $250 for the district’s part-time workers.

However, board member Matt Smith requested a compromise, explaining he was concerned that large of bonus could disrupt any future plans to keep two long-term substitutes one additional year.

The district hired the subs in FY 22 and have already earmarked ESSER funding to continue the positions in the current fiscal year. With a remaining ESSER balance of around $138,000, the district could extend those positions, but it would be difficult with the higher bonuses.

The situation is also complicated by federal rules that require the ESSER funds to be allocated by September 2023.

Following the discussion, the board agreed to the lower bonus amounts, which should leave around $100,000 to fund the substitute positions, with another $30,000 remaining for additional undetermined projects.

District Business Manager Eric Small also told the board he had been conservative in his cost estimates for some of the projects funded by ESSER, so the current balance might be larger.

In other action, two student teams competing in the First LEGOTM League Challenge presented their Challenge presentations to the board. One presentation dealt with conserving energy at the elementary, while the second looked at potential solar installation for the elementary.

Following the presentations, the board agreed to ask Jerry Dvorak of Red Lion Renewables to provide it with a proposal for installing solar panels on the district campuses.

The board also:

• Approved several new hires.

• Approved second readings of several new board policies, which will now be added to the board’s policy book.

• Declared several old wall pads from the district’s main gym and miscellaneous cross country team items to be surplus and sold. Athletic Director Brandon Brown indicated he would offer the material at upcoming sporting events under a silent auction bidding format.

• Approved the district’s FY 21 audit.

• Approved an $86,724 Open Enrollment Out application for Modified Supplemental Amount (MSA) to the School Budget Review Committee (SBRC), a $10,897 Limited English Proficiency (LEP) application for MSA to the SBRC and a $41,246 LEP Allowable Cost MSA application to the SBRC.

• Approved a $33,657 bid from Spectra Build to install ceiling panels in district buildings, but postponed a decision on other construction projects until it could schedule pre-construction contractor meetings and development of preliminary bid documents.

In final action, Curriculum Director Shannon Salazar updated the board on the district’s scores on the most recent Iowa School Performance Profile. Salazar said the district’s elementary, middle school and high school were all in the acceptable category.

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