BEMENT — The Bement school district is on sound financial footing, according to a report given to the school board Nov. 10 by its auditor.
Russ Leigh of Russell Leigh and Associates said the official numbers show most of the district balances grew in 2021-22, most notably a $632,000 increase in the education fund, which increased it to $1.8 million at the start of the school year.
“The education fund looks really good. From where I started many years ago, your education fund has come a tremendously long way through the years,” Leigh said. “I think when I started you were on the (state) warning list, and now you’re on the recognition list.”
He credited Sheila Greenwood — the nine-year superintendent who is serving as interim superintendent this school year — with the financial turnaround.
“Hats off to the work Sheila has done through the years. We’ve definitely enjoyed working with you, and will miss you going down the road,” Leigh said.
Greenwood said the financial stability allowed the district to drop the 2021 tax levy (payable in 2022) by about 2 cents, to $4.9271 per $100 assessed valuation. The levy was formally approved by the school board at the meeting.
Boiler project nearly complete
The boiler replacement project is nearly complete. One of the two heating units is installed and handling the job for now, while the installation of the second unit is underway.
“The boiler is up and keeping us sufficiently warm while we wait for the remainder of the installation to occur,” Greenwood said.
But she tempered that with hopes the project would be complete by the time winter temperatures arrive.
“Mother Nature has been good to us the past couple of weeks, but we can’t count on her to continue her generosity.”
Parent Kendra Jayne expressed concerns over the handling of COVID-19 cases.
“I feel why they (my children) were exposed are lack of precautions taken at school,” Jayne said, pointing to what she felt was a lack of distancing among students in the cafeteria.
Assistant Principal Christy Sweet said modifications had been made in response to the concerns.
“We did hear your concerns,” Sweet said. “We have completely rearranged the lunch room to where there are not more than four kids at an 8-foot table, which puts them at the correct distance.”
More tables have been added so there are fewer students per lunch table, Sweet said.
Jayne also expressed frustration about how long it took to be notified her child was a close contact.
“He was exposed on the 21st; I was notified on the 26th that he was in fact a close contact,” Jayne said.
She was told contact tracing is done by the health department, and that at times notification had lagged throughout the pandemic.
“We are limited on how much information we can share with the families. We can’t tell who, we can’t tell where, we can’t tell when. That is up to the health department,” Sweet said.
Several board members thanked Jayne for outlining her concerns to the board.
In other action, the board:
— approved the resignation of Rachel Riley-Halliday as high school scholastic bowl sponsor, and hired B.J. Schaefer for the opening for the 2021-22 school year;
— was informed high school students of the quarter were Silas Olson, Kole Somers, Bailey Blythe and Emma Garlutzo;
— was reminded the Mike Walsh Girls Basketball Tournament will resume this year and is scheduled for Dec. 3-4. The Mike Walsh Memorial 5K run will be Dec. 11;
— heard the booster club Turkey Trot will be Nov. 25 at Cerro Gordo;
— was told work continues on the baseball field renovation: Building permits have been granted, brush is to be cleared from an area behind the backstop; a scoreboard is being ordered, a shed being designed and the district is waiting on a quote to perform electrical work; and
— heard the district has received a $50,000 maintenance grant from the state, which will likely be used to help replace windows at the high school.