GFW School Board discusses COVID-19, SOD Plan

By Denise Bonsack, Publisher

The GFW School Board met for their regular meeting on Monday, March 16. 

The agenda was approved, and visitor comments were received. Fairfax City Administrator Nicholas Johnson spoke to the board to convey a request from the Fairfax EDA regarding the possible re-sale of the Fairfax school building. Johnson indicated that the EDA would like to request a ‘first right of refusal’ for the property, which means that, before the district can sell the building to a third party the Fairfax EDA would be given an opportunity to match any bids and acquire the property if they choose to.

In the Superintendent’s report, Lonnie Seifert provided an update for the board on the district’s COVID-19 response. A district-wide staff meeting was held on Monday morning to provide an update, and classes were held on Monday, but as of Tuesday, March 17, the district will be closed to students. Teachers and staff will spend the next two weeks developing a plan for distance learning. The teachers will have to figure out how they are going to introduce new concepts to kids without direct contact. All GFW students in grades four through 12 now have Chromebooks and chargers so, as long as they have internet access, they should be able to work with them if they have internet access. There are a few kids that have indicated they do not have internet access at home, so alternatives are being considered.

Meals will also continue to be provided at all three schools. Beginning March 23, meals will be available for pick-up at all three schools from 11 am to 1 pm. Delivery to homes is also available. A cold lunch and a cold breakfast for the following day will be provided each day for anyone ages one through 18. For every meal they distribute, the district will be reimbursed. Families can register their children on the GFW Schools website at

The T-Bird Club is continuing to provide daycare for kids previously enrolled, as well as for children of healthcare and emergency workers and school staff.

Currently they have been told that state funding will remain the same and be calculated based on the assumption of perfect attendance by all students. So far, there has been no directive on the MCA testing that usually happens in the spring of the school year.

Seifert indicated that these changes could last the remainder of the school year. 

On the subject of the District’s SOD Plan, Seifert indicated that they have received a letter from the Department of Education indicating the SOD Plan has been approved. He is currently drafting a letter requesting permission to run an operating levy as soon as possible.

Moving on to Discussion Items, the board talked about the possibility of selling the old football field in Gibbon. The district still owns the property, and it only gets used for Community Ed and PLS soccer, but it costs the district $150 every time it gets mowed, which is typically once a week. They also pay liability insurance on it, which is another expense they could eliminate. After some discussion, the board agreed to put the word out that offers will be accepted and that interested parties can come to the district office for more information.

Next, the group talked about future plans for the GFW Intermediate School Building in Fairfax and considered the request from the Fairfax EDA conveyed by Johnson earlier in the meeting. 

The board directed Seifert to work with Johnson on the language of the first right of refusal, and then spread the word that the building is for sale. 

Next Seifert reviewed a preliminary staff reduction proposal that was part of the SOD Plan. The list included one full-time art teacher, two full-time elementary teachers, an office assistant, 12 hours per day of food service time, three hours of health para time and 30 hours of paraprofessional time. The superintendent position will also go from a full-time position to half-time. The total amount projected from these reductions is approximately $460,900.39.

He noted that they are doing the best they can to find places they can cut but still be able to offer that programming to the kids. Art, for example, can be taught by other teachers. The Elementary class sizes are going to increase. Their plan is to go to two sections of each class, plus one multi-age section that might include third and fourth graders together, for example. They are trying to balance the cuts so it is not all concentrated in one area.

Seifert also noted that it’s difficult to get a handle on numbers of the younger kids without being able to have the annual Kindergarten Round-Up event. They are still trying to determine how to handle that as well.

Finally, the group reviewed the classified union employees agreement. Seifert explained that the agreement includes a $.50 per hour increase in the first year and no salary increases for returning employees in the second year. The district contribution for health insurance was also revamped starting in the second year, to include three tiers of coverage instead of an hourly-based coverage. The settlement as a whole was lower than what had been budgeted.

The next regular meeting is scheduled for April 20, 2020 in Fairfax.


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