Graduation date is set

Ron Burtz
The Custer High School graduating class of 2020 finally has a firm date for commencement exercises. The Custer School District Board of Education set Saturday, June 27, as the date for a quasi-traditional graduation ceremony to be held at Wildcat Stadium at 2 p.m.  
The decision was made at Monday’s regular monthly meeting where members of the graduation committee made presentations both live in the meeting room in the Armory and via teleconference. The majority of the meeting’s attendees participated remotely.
Senior Kelsey Herman, who was present along with student council advisor Sandy Arseneault, said the committee plans to seat audience members on the football field and seat graduates in the stands. Diplomas will be handed out on the running track. Attendees will be asked to bring lawn chairs and family groups will be asked to social distance from other groups. 
In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will be moved to the Armory. There was also discussion of issuing four tickets to each graduate for family and friends to keep numbers down. However, it was decided to set the date now so invitations can be sent out and they can discuss the issue of tickets later.
Superintendent Mark Naugle said 61 seniors are expected to walk for graduation next month. Two other members of the class have moved out of state and will receive their diplomas by mail. 
The school board also heard a presentation from Custer YMCA director Rex Jorgenson and child development director Erica Van Horn regarding a plan to provide summer daycare at the elementary school beginning June 1. 
At last month’s meeting, Jorgensen approached the board about using the Armory for the program, but at Monday’s meeting, he said attempting to license the Armory would have taken as long as two months. 
The program will serve approximately 40 children K-5 and be from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. five days a week. 
Jorgensen said the program will have to follow CDC social distancing guidelines which means having no more than 10 persons per room, no cross-classroom interaction and no group playtime in shared spaces. The daily routine will also call for taking temperatures of each child. 
Van Horn said a survey of Hermosa parents showed there are eight families there who want child care this summer. 
The daycare plan for both Custer and Hermosa was approved unanimously. 
A discussion of updating the district’s math curricula continued, with several elementary and high school math teachers joining the discussion via the internet. The consensus of the group seemed to be summed up by high school math teacher Michelle Clevenger who said there needs to be an alignment of math curriculum for grades K-12. No decision was made on that matter. 
In an update on the Hermosa School project, Naugle said Architects Inc. has completed plans to the 85 percent completion level. He said the construction manager at risk, Dean Kurtz Construction, will now develop a guaranteed maximum price (GMP) which is expected by Friday. 
Naugle said if the price comes in above the target amount of $14-15 million, the board has the option of rejecting the price or paring down the project so it fits within the budget. A special meeting was set for next Monday, May 18, at 5 p.m. to discuss the GMP. 
Immediately prior to the regular meeting, the board held a half-hour budget hearing to consider the 2020-21 district budget. 
District business manager Lisa Fluck reported a general fund budget of $7,820,924 and said 70 percent is for salaries and benefits. She pointed out that the district ended the last fiscal year with a surplus of $1.8 million, which went into reserves. 
Fluck said the budget is based on an enrollment of 900 students. 
Stating that the actual enrollment could be as high as 950 by next fall, Naugle said enrollment is the “variable that is hard to budget.” 
Due to declining state and local revenues, Fluck said the budget would call for using $816,048 from cash reserves to bring it into balance. 
That information became a bone of contention with board members when it came up again during the regular meeting. 
Board member Jeff Prior was one of those saying that because of the amount of cash reserves being used, the decision should be pushed back in order to give the board more time for discussion. 
“I’m not going to vote ‘yes’ on that,” said Prior of the budget in its current state. “It has to get down to $400,000 for use of cash before I can vote ‘yes.’” 
Under board policy, the budget is set to be approved at the June meeting, but Fluck pointed out that according to state law, it does not need to be finalized until September. 
The board set a 5 p.m. meeting ahead of next month’s regular school board meeting to discuss the budget and will likely push the final decision back to July or August.  
In other business at the May meeting:
• Naugle said the district has received proposals for food service management from two companies. The proposals will be reviewed by a committee and a recommendation will be made at the June meeting.
• The school board approved a two-year contract for occupational therapy services with Creative Kids Therapy of Custer. 
• Naugle reported the state of South Dakota will get $1.2 billion from the CARES Act for coronavirus relief. He said he believes the governor will use the money to “try to backfill holes in the budget” which will hopefully include education.
• Naugle announced that the twice-daily bag meals produced by the school lunch program will continue through the end of June through the use of grant monies. However, he said he is not sure how to pay school employees who will deliver the meals to pick-up locations. 

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