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Underwood Community Schools

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From the Desk of the Superintendent...

MAY 2020 DISTRICT DISPATCH At the regular school board meeting held on Tuesday, April 14, 2020, the Underwood Community School District Board of Directors approved the certified budget for the 2020-21 school year at a total maximum amount not to exceed $13,282,393. Key information shared with the school board members during the meeting included the following: (1) taxable valuation in the school district has decreased from $278,307,872 to $276,197,752; (2) the general fund property tax levy rate is projected to decrease from 11.93462 to 11.73236; (3) the management fund property tax levy rate is projected to increase from 0.79049 to 0.94135; (4) the schoolhouse property tax levy rate will remain at 0.33000; and (5) the debt service property tax levy rate will decrease from 1.52004 to 1.48875. The grand total property tax levy rate is projected to be 14.49246. This is a decrease of 0.08269 from last year’s grand total property tax levy rate of 14.57515. The school district’s financial condition remains healthy in spite of low levels of supplemental state aid in recent years. In order to maintain the school district’s healthy financial condition, efforts must be made to limit expenditure increases and guard against becoming overstaffed and underfunded. Our goal is to maintain a cash balance backed by spending authority which enables us to operate for two or three months without having to borrow any money. The Underwood Community School District is joining the other 326 school districts in Iowa to honor its elected school board members during Iowa School Board Recognition Month during the month of May. “Launching Iowa’s Next Generation” is this year’s Iowa Association of School Boards’ theme. This theme recognizes that Iowa’s volunteer school board members are providing innovative leadership through responsibilities ranging from strong financial stewardship to ensuring high-quality curriculum in order to make sure that all students are prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century. As elected leaders, they represent the citizens of the Underwood Community School District in a continuing commitment to local citizen control. Too often the efforts of school board members go unrecognized and unrewarded, so let’s take this opportunity to thank them for their service. The members of our local school board are Jeff Bonsall, Matt Brummett, Rick Larson, Teresa Mace, and Michelle Soloth. When the opportunity presents itself, please join me in telling them “thank you” for a job well done. At a press conference held on Thursday, April 2, 2020, Governor Kim Reynolds announced that schools in Iowa will be closed through at least the end of April to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Please be aware that there is still a strong likelihood that we will not return for the rest of the 2019-20 school year. Because of the uncertainty that COVID-19 has created in our schools, several questions have arisen. This is particularly true for seniors and senior parents. Please note that the following questions are answered with the assumption that schools will not be able to host large gatherings of people in May or possibly even June. Will we have graduation? If so, when will it be? We are tentatively planning to have graduation on Friday, July 31, 2020, at 7:00 p.m. in the high school gymnasium. Will there be a senior trip? If not, will seniors get a refund? Unfortunately, there will not be a senior trip. If there is money left in the senior account, there are a few ideas under consideration. For example, catering a meal to be served during graduation rehearsal. Will there be an awards night for seniors? We are still examining if and when this would happen. It may be done using a format such as Facebook Live. Will high school students (particularly seniors) earn credits toward graduation? The Iowa Department of Education is working on an expedited application process that would allow school districts to provide online learning opportunities (as Underwood is doing now) and require and grade the work. Students would earn their credits based upon their third quarter grades and the required classwork completed after that application is accepted by the Iowa Department of Education. Even if our application is not accepted, we will be able to determine senior credits. A fallback position would be to use the students’ third quarter grades. Will there be a baccalaureate ceremony? Baccalaureate is not a school-sponsored event, but we have contacted the individuals in charge of this event, Sandy Redshaw and Dani Baxter. They are considering having a baccalaureate ceremony on Sunday, July 26, 2020, or on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, at 6:00 p.m. in the high school auditorium. What will happen with prom? Hopefully, we will be able to reschedule prom and post-prom and have them take place on a date later this summer. Post-prom fundraising will go toward that event. Post-prom parents would determine what would happen with the post-prom fundraising money of post-prom can’t be held. Will there be a yearbook? Yes, there will be a yearbook. What will happen with spring and summer athletics and activities? All athletic and activity events will follow the guidelines established by their respective state associations. Options are presently being examined at the state level. All music and speech events have been cancelled. Will there be spring concerts? No, all spring concerts at Underwood have been cancelled. Will the music trip to Nashville still take place? At this time, the Nashville music trip is still planned to take place during the summer. However, there is a strong possibility that it will be rescheduled to a later date. This will be determined once we get more guidance from the Iowa Department of Public Health and the travel company coordinating the trip. Will parents be notified of updates on our situation? Building principals will be sending a weekly email to parents during our closure. Please keep an eye out for these emails. We will pass on new information we receive from the Iowa Department of Education and the Iowa Department of Public Health. It is natural to have several questions and concerns during unprecedented times such as these. We will do our best to answer your questions or direct you to someone who can. Please contact me, Superintendent Ed Hawks, at ehawks@underwoodschools.org or 712-566-2332 or your child’s building principal for help. The contact information for the building principals is as follows: High School Principal Matt McDonough, mmcdonough@underwoodschools.org or 712-566-2703; Middle School Principal Beau Jacobsen, bjacobsen@underwoodschools.org or 712-566-2332; and Elementary Principal Jeff Privia, jprivia@underwoodschools.org or 712-566-2326.