Dear Northfield School District Families:
I hope you have had a good week. Today, I want to provide you with some updates about COVID-19, the school district’s budget, and a change in the fine structures at Northfield Public Library.
In January, we saw the total number of COVID-19 cases nearly triple. On Jan. 1, the district had counted 332 total COVID-19 cases since Aug. 31. On Jan. 31, that count had grown to 940. The good news is that new COVID-19 cases have slowed significantly in the last week.
Please take a moment to thank our staff for their incredibly hard work during what has been a difficult time. Our staff is committed to public service. Their efforts to fill in for others and do what was needed to maintain in-person learning was outstanding. We are grateful to our substitute teachers and support staff for their work. Our school’s nursing and front office staff provided excellent support for families. I am also thankful for you — our parents — who have partnered with us to limit the further spread of the virus. We know many families took advantage of the district’s COVID-19 tests. That allows us to best understand the situation we face and adjust accordingly.
While the pandemic is not over yet, we are optimistic that we will see the end. The school board recently adopted a set of safety protocol exit criteria. The criteria use the latest district “immunity rate” to inform what county transmission levels would prompt the removal of COVID-19 safety protocols. Next week, we will begin publishing the immunity rate and other relevant information on our dashboard.
As always, please continue to follow good hygiene practices like washing your hands regularly. Please stay home if you are not feeling well. If you have COVID-19 like symptoms, please get tested. We can provide your students with COVID-19 testing options through our Cue testing center or with rapid antigen tests that are available at your school office. If you have not yet been vaccinated and wish to do so, see the opportunities available through Rice County Public Health here. You can also seek vaccination options through local pharmacies or your medical provider.
District Budget Team Process
Our district has been fortunate to have effectively managed its financial resources. Standard & Poor’s recently validated our financial oversight by assigning the district a prestigious AA+ bond rating. Only three school districts in that state have a better bond rating than Northfield and only two others have an equivalent bond rating.
The district is experiencing declining enrollment. Recently, the district commissioned a demographic study that indicates we will have approximately 400 fewer students over the next ten years. Additionally, state funding has not kept pace with inflation over the last 30 years. Northfield taxpayers have routinely (and generously) voted to fill in the gaps left by this chronic underfunding from the legislature.
A combination of fewer students and state underfunding has resulted in deficit spending for the past two school years. We have maintained a strong budget reserve that has allowed us to survive the initial impacts of declining enrollment and the challenges presented by COVID-19. However, we will need to reduce our expenditures over the next three years to maintain the district’s financial health.
We invite parents and community members to join staff members in an upcoming process to prioritize our budget needs. You can learn more about the district’s financial situation, the reason for reducing our expenditures, and how to get involved here.
Northfield Public Library goes “fine free”
Northfield Public Library no longer charges fines on overdue materials. Cardholders with existing fines on Northfield Library-owned materials should call or come into the library to have staff waive past fines. Overdue materials must be returned to the library for fines to be waived. Fees for lost or damaged items cannot be waived; however, long overdue material can be returned at any time with no penalty. You can learn more here.
Once again, thank you for your partnership. We appreciate our parents and value the work we do together for our students. Have a great weekend.
Matt Hillmann, Ed.D.