At its meeting Monday, June 21, the Elk Point-Jefferson School Board took an important next step in upgrading its facilities by hiring DA Davidson.

Last year, the district hired ISG for a facilities analysis, to determine whether the district’s physical space was meeting its needs. That was followed by a survey of staff on their top priorities for the buildings, with about a dozen identified. The next step was a Community Task Force, about 25 district residents who have been meeting to look at those priorities and learn about financing options to make them possible.

At its most recent meeting, the task force heard from Davidson’s Jerry Spethman, who also addressed the board Monday night. He talked about the two main funding options available – General Obligation Bonds and Capital Outlay Certificates. The main difference between the two is how they are structured. Bonds need 60 percent voter approval, while certificates can be approved by a simple majority of the board.

However, EPJ is not yet at the point of approving either method. The next step is distributing stakeholder surveys to get feedback from district residents on what they find acceptable for tax levies and debt levels. Those surveys will be available both online and in hard copy from July 19 to mid-August.

Once the surveys are completed, the task force will meet one last time to decide what to present to the board as far as updates and financial options. The board will make the final decision on what, if any, projects will be implemented and how to pay for them.

Monday’s approval of Davidson was merely accepting that Davidson will act as the district’s financial advisor should the decision be made to move forward with upgrades.

Superintendent Derek Barrios opened the meeting by reading a salute to outgoing board president Cherie Noteboom. He complimented her on the many achievements the district made under her leadership. (Watch for an upcoming story on Noteboom’s tenure.)

Barrios updated the board on Return to Learn. So far, there have been no issues with making masks optional during the summer. Activities Director Justin Clercx said several students in Driver’s Ed wore masks, but the majority did not. Barrios suggested that masks may be optional once classes begin this fall, if the district begins the year in either Tier 1 or 2.

Barrios said the district has earmarked all of its ESSER I and ESSER II funds, just under $500,000. Twenty percent, about $100,000 is set aside to deal with learning loss. The remainder paid for new Chromebooks and iPads, adding new glycol to the HVAC system to make it more efficient and hiring an additional SPED teacher. He and Business Manager Terri Chicoine are looking at ESSER III funds and American Rescue Plan (ARP) that is a far more restrictive process, requiring a strict narrative on how the funds will be spent. Allowable activities include mitigation strategies, loss of instructional time, academic support, professional development and workforce challenges.

See full story in this week’s Leader-Courier.