NEW BUFFALO — Teachers, food service workers and other staff members who have remained hard at work during the COVID-19 closure that began on March 16 were praised for their efforts during a March 30 New Buffalo Area Schools Board of Education meeting held via the ZOOM App.

“We just have some great employees,” said Superintendent Dr. Jeff Leslie, who noted that he “can’t say enough about the efforts”of NBAS employees working during the closure, saying Food Service Director Patty Iazzetto and her staff have gone above and beyond providing meals for those 18 and under for the past two weeks (distributing just over 3,000 grab-and-go meals as of March 30).

“I want to thank New Buffalo Bill’s for providing lunch to our ladies last Wednesday, and thank you to Green Spirit Farms — they provided one pound of lettuce to each one of our cars today,” he said.

He said the Blessings in a Backpack program at Water’s Edge Church added an extra bag of food during the Friday, March 27, meal distribution (which also consists of three breakfasts and three lunches).

Leslie said the district’s Operations Department led by Keith Carlson “cleaned and disinfected every square inch of our buildings” in three days.

He said the technology department is doing a great job as well helping to keep teachers and students connected.

Leslie thanked the teachers for everything that they’ve been doing as it looks more and more likely that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will cancel the remainder of the school year as far as in-building learning is concerned (an official announcement was expected imminently).

“The teachers are working on getting e-learning up and running,” he said.

He later noted that everything that’s been done remotely since the closure up to this point is considered enrichment activities since state law requires school to be in session with 75 percent attendance. Any changes going forward will be up to state officials. He later said there are areas within the district where it extremely difficult to get a cell phone signal that would allow students access to the Internet via a mobile hot spot.

Board of Education members also thanked district employees for their efforts

“Just a big thank you to our entire staff. I’m very proud of New Buffalo Area Schools,” aid Board President Chuck Heit.

Heather Lijewski Black said she appreciates the efforts of the Food Service staff being out there in the community.

Leslie said the State of Michigan was slated to release the official A to F report cards for each of the districts schools (high school, middle school and elementary) indicating that he has seen them ahead of the official release and “Arthur Fonzarelli would approve of our scores.”

On Wednesday, April 1, Leslie said all three New Buffalo district schools had earned "A's" in all areas and were named "Reward Schools" by the Michigan Department of Education.

"I am very proud of how hard our students work each day. This would not be possible without the care and dedication of our teachers, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, administrative assistants, administrators, and parents. We remain focused on the needs of each individual child," he said.

On March 30 Leslie also thanked the district’s voters for approving the operational millage renewal on March 10 by more than a four-to-one margin.

The Board of Education also accepted two letters of resignation during the March 30 meeting.

Accepted with regret was the resignation (effective at the end of the current school year) of Middle School Principal Lindsey Diebolt.

Leslie later said she served as assistant principal for two years before becoming middle school principal this school year and has done an awesome job, noting that the middle school was recently ranked number-one in the county on a federal accountability rating.

Also accepted was the resignation (also effective at the end of the current school year) of middle/high school science/biology teacher Kirsten Fenton (Leslie later said she plans to move from the area).

Board members discussed the possible complications and delays the coronavirus crisis could pose to plans for planned construction work at the Elementary School entrance area to enhance safety.

Leslie said the district may need to be flexible due to issues related to bids from contractors and supply chain issues, adding that “we really need to get this end by the start of school.”

Although Leslie said the district will have no problem financing the elementary project, Heit said the district may need to review its finances as they relate to other plans such as the STEAM complex near the middle/high school due to the unknown effects of factors such as the closing of the Four Winds Casinos.

Leslie also mentioned the possibility of establishing an Environmental Learning Center (using grant money) on property that is part of the protected parcels adjacent to the Elementary School.

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