Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Bethany Helwig
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Barnum to host drive-in graduation


Barnum School’s current plan for commencement will be holding a drive-in ceremony at the high school on May 29 at 6 p.m., as discussed at the working board meeting on May 5.

High School Principal Gregg Campbell explained that with restrictions still in place, they had to plan what they could within the constraints. The plan is to limit attendees to immediate family with a two vehicle cap per graduate (those who need more than two vehicles to accommodate immediate family should contact the school). They still plan to play music, have the speeches, and the reading of the graduates. It will also be streamed on Facebook live and they are in contact with WKLK to play it on the radio as well.

While the school had backup plans in case restrictions were lifted, they posted on their website later in the week that the Minnesota Department of Education issued guidance on May 8 that “indoor graduations and ceremonies held outside in stadiums and football fields are not permitted.”

Principal Campbell plans to have the speeches and reading of the graduates pre-recorded as well should there be poor weather or unexpected issues on the day.

They are also considering staging at the elementary to have a parade to get extended family and the community involved since space will be limited at commencement.

As for the Memorial Day service that is usually held at the school, they are working with Jeff Gilbertson and the local American Legion to put together some kind of video since they can’t have a physical service. They made it clear they wanted to be able to do something on the day regardless of the current circumstances.

Elementary Principal Judy Vitito announced the section plan for 2021: three sections for Kindergarten, 3rd, and 4th grade; and two sections for 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 6th grade.

“We’ve really gone through all the paces and all the different scenarios that we could,” said Principal Vitito. “But in the end we believe it’s the right decision for right now.”

She has also started to put together a Rural Schools Leadership Team. Objectives of the team include creating long term strategic goals and seeking ways to integrate programs despite budget reductions. She would like community members and some board members on the team.

“I can’t stand by and watch,” said Principal Vitito. “I got to get in, and let’s make our best effort to define ourselves and work through this in a good way.”

The elementary cell phone policy has been updated. Previously, students kept phones in their lockers. Now cell phones are to be collected at the beginning of the day in students’ classrooms and picked up at the end of the day. If students don’t follow this procedure, phones will be taken to the office and a parent will need to pick them up.

Principal Vitito also stated they are moving away from the practice of accepting teacher requests from parents, and the move is supported through the school.

She stated they “simply request that people trust our professional judgment. Rest assured that we have the best interest of the children in mind as we do this work each spring.”

Another bus route may be reduced and students distributed to others in an effort to save $45,000. Such a change could add on an additional 15-20 minutes to bus routes that are already an hour long. This led into a discussion about the possible Moose Lake/Barnum transportation cooperative. Superintendent Mike McNulty said he has met with Moose Lake’s Superintendent Robert Indihar a few times about sharing a mechanic and dispatch between the schools. However, they are unsure if they want to continue to utilize the services of the Watson Consulting Group who did the transportation audits for both schools, or move forward with the co-op on their own.

Part of the difficulty in establishing shared routes are the different start and end times of the school day for the two schools and getting the right kids to the right place at the right time. The board will discuss the matter further at their regular board meeting.

The board also discussed the possibility of reducing the size of the current school board, which has seven members, as another way of reducing costs. Paul Coughlin suggested going to a five member board. Patrick Poirier said this isn’t the first time the issue has been brought up and they need to check with the Minnesota School Boards Association (MSBA) about board size regulations. Colleen Fetters said she would get in contact with the MSBA before the next meeting so see what they can and cannot do regarding the board’s size.

In other business, Superintendent McNulty said the schools will continue with the approved 2019-20 calendar but are not sure yet what the final days will consist of.

“The reality is we can’t run it right up to the end,” said Principal Campbell and talked about how both students and teachers will need some time to make sure everything needed is in before the last official day.

The next regular board meeting will be held remotely on May 19 at 6:30 p.m.


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