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Forest City school board approves new software integration to assist students

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The Forest City school board unanimously approved the district’s “My Academic Plan” for the upcoming school year on June 14.

The district’s plan provides means for implementation of career and academic planning processes for students. The district is purchasing a software resource, Xello, to use as part of its plan for the first time, starting in August.

Forest City High School Principal Ken Baker said it will help Forest City students explore their future college and career planning options. The initial implementation cost for the first year will be $4,475 with an annual renewal cost of approximately $3,675.

Baker said both students and parents can be granted access to Xello, which will be able to communicate with the district’s infinite campus portal, which is already routinely used by students and parents for any number of things.

Xello is meant to engage students in college and career readiness. It can help students in Kindergarten through 12th grade build desired skills, knowledge, and plans for their individual futures.

“Kids are only going to get out of it what they put into it,” Baker said. “We know we want to beef up this aspect of career and college training.”

Sara Meinders, Forest City’s school board secretary and the district’s business manager, said the college and career readiness software will help students and parents track progress. She noted it will also help ensure that their goals set in their academic plan are being met and are on track, within the framework of the district plan.

Board member Troy Thompson said he hopes this can help make Forest City students better prepared for their futures.

“I’m hopeful we can really continue to develop the career development piece of it,” Thompson said.

Board members approved a new agreement specifying the district’s role with the North Iowa Therapeutic Consortium, Garner-Hayfield-Ventura Community School District, and Four Oaks Family and Children's Services for the 2022-23 school year.

“Forest City becomes the fiscal agent for the program,” Superintendent Darwin Lehmann said. “Garner (Hayfield-Ventura) will still operate the program.”

The Forest City Community School District sponsors three seats in the program, which provides help and educational support to children who have experienced significant trauma. It creates programs for at-risk students, focused on helping students understand the impact of their behavior choices, identify alternative strategies and practice self-management skills. It also features therapeutic classroom programming for students who have difficulty in managing their health.

The Forest City district pays more than $33,000 for each seat in the Ventura-based consortium. There will be a 1% cost increase under the new agreement.

School board members also acknowledged receipt of the district’s recognition award plaque from the faculty and staff of the John V. Hanson Career Center and North Iowa Area Community College. It is for the school district’s partnership with them during the completion of the career center building. It also recognizes the district’s willingness to allow use of its facilities during the transition to the new facility at 124 Nerem Drive South in Forest City. Forest City, Garner-Hayfield-Ventura, Lake Mills, and North Iowa High Schools are partners with NIACC in the center’s student programs.

Meal program prices

Board members also approved a first reading of an updated board policy on how negative school lunch balances will be addressed.

“People are going to pay for meals,” Superintendent Lehmann said. “I’m a little nervous about what that’s going to look like.”

In February, the board approved, generally, increased lunch prices of approximately $0.10 per meal. Lehmann said there has not been a larger lunch price increase since he has been with the district.

“We see where the cost of food and the cost of delivering the food is going,” Lehmann said. “The cost of food is going to go up.”

He noted that anyone who has difficulty paying for school lunches may be able to apply for assistance funding. School district officials will provide notifications and help them get paperwork. Applicants would need to meet certain income requirements.

“We’ll encourage people to get paperwork, if they think they’ll qualify,” Lehmann said. “We have a game plan in place after about one and a half years without paying.”

Despite the price increase, board members noted that the district’s meals are still among the best available for the cost. With the increase, student meal costs for the 2022-23 school year will be as follows:

Breakfast - $1.95 for grades K-4 and $2.10 for grades 5-12. The reduced price breakfast will remain $0.30 for all grades.

Lunch - $2.75 for grades K-4 and $2.95 for grades 5-12. The reduced price lunch will remain $0.40 for all grades.

The adult breakfast price will be $2.40 and the adult lunch price will be $4.10.

In other business, the board approved:

  • An agreement with Turning Leaf Counseling of Mason City for the availability of various mental health services to students.
  • Renewal agreements with North Iowa Area Community College for Concurrent Enrollment Career Link programs and courses and Entrepreneurship Academy.
  • Employee contracts with Shannon Gassman as special education teacher, Elizabeth Gann as administrative assistant; Rick Grunhovd for assistant transportation director supplemental contract, and Samantha Holt as elementary paraprofessional.
  • Employee contract adjustments for Barb Determann (8.5 to 7.5 hours per day) and Angel Clarey (transfer to paraprofessional).

Rob Hillesland is community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at rob.hillesland@globegazette.com.

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