Columbia School Board OKs plan, contract


The Columbia School Board approved the school district’s detailed plan for school in the fall and a new contract with its educators at a special meeting last Wednesday. 

The district had already announced the basics of its plan for the start of the school year, but it had not finished the specifics of the plan yet. 

It is taking a hybrid approach, with students attending in-person two days a week and remotely three days a week. 

“In the end, we had to come up with the best plan to balance safety and education,” Columbia Assistant Superintendent Courtney Castelli said after acknowledging the difficulties this approach presents to families. “In order for our students to learn and our staff to teach, we have to be safe. That’s a huge weight to carry because you know the decisions that you make can impact someone’s lifelong health.”

Castelli also told the board, which approved the plan 6-1, has already been updated after the district received feedback. 

“We are not of the mindset that if it wasn’t our idea, it wasn’t a good idea,” Castelli said. 

Board member Greg Meyer voting against the plan, arguing having children in school benefits them more and puts less stress on working parents and teachers.

The board also approved a new contract with its teachers’ union. 

“There wasn’t too much in terms of big changes,”  Columbia Superintendent Chris Grode said of the contract.

The most significant change was a three-year raise structure outlined in the contract where, depending on seniority, teachers can earn raises of up to 6 percent, 5 percent and 5 percent, respectively, over three consecutive years. 

Board member Karen Anderson and Board President Scottt Middelkamp helped negotiate the contract. 

“It was a very pleasant experience,” Anderson said. 

“I expressed, and I think (the teachers) all know, that we’re all in this together,” Middelkamp added. 

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