River Grove Receives $14,256 in Washington County COVID-19 School Assistance Program Grant
Schools throughout Minnesota and the across US have had an unusual set of budgeting challenges this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Expenses due to the transmission-mitigation efforts of increased cleaning, personal protective equipment, food service changes, social distancing in learning and operational spaces, and curriculum delivery have caused school leaders everywhere to be extremely careful and proactive financial stewards.
River Grove: A Marine Area Community School, now in its fourth year in the 900-acre Wilder Forest location north of Stillwater, is among the Minnesota schools to receive grant money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The K-6, 200-student public charter school started the year using the in-person “Hybrid Model” while also offering a “Distance Learning Model” for the 25 percent of its families who opted for fully online classes. In the fall, relying on advice from healthcare professionals that outdoor spaces were safer than indoor ones, the school prioritized ways to get kids immersed in its unique forest campus. It wasn’t too much of a stretch for the school, which already had plenty of experience of taking classes outside, and funds were allocated for things like outdoor classroom equipment and Wi-Fi capabilities extending to the outdoors. With local COVID-19 rates rising significantly, at its November meeting the Board of Directors voted to move the school into full Distance Learning for all families starting December 3.
Kyle Knudson, Operations Manager for The Anton Group (the school’s accounting advisors), noted that “River Grove has been very detailed in its planning for the 2020-21 school year. As a part of this process, the school has been determined to make decisions that protect its students, families, and staff while continuing to provide a top-tier education utilizing our special location in the woods. There have been multiple additional costs to ensure our goal of having a safe place for our students to come to daily. In addition, providing an education completely at a distance has its own financial challenges. The school has received CARES funding to help offset some of these additional costs. Over the last couple of months, the school had applied for and received funding from Washington County, utilizing the CARES funding that the county received which has allowed for extra cleaning during the day as well as supplies to carry out its mission.”
Drew Goodson, School Director, added “We are very fortunate to be in a healthy financial position to navigate the challenges created by the pandemic. The school took many necessary steps in our first few years of operations to build a reserve fund that was significantly aided by generous community support and donations. This fund, which is unusually strong for a charter school in its early years, along with sound financial management, will carry us through during this tough time. We cannot thank our families and community enough for their continued support.”