Pierz school officials give nod of approval for holiday choir trip

By Lorae Vardas, Correspondent

If all goes as planned, 67 choral students from Pierz Healy High School and 11 adult chaperones will be spending a portion of the Christmas holiday break in sunny Florida. The school choir, directed by Diane Hauan, has been invited to perform at Orlando’s Walt Disney World Park where they are scheduled to be part of two 50-minute shows with the Disney Orchestra. The group will perform with a massed choir of 300 singers from around the country in the Dec. 29 Candlelight Processional at Epcot narrated by Amy Grant.

“It’s an honor to be invited back,” Hauan told the School Board at its Oct. 30 meeting. “The trip is similar to one taken by the choir three years ago, except we will be spending two days, instead of three days, on the bus.” Participants in the professionally produced Candlelight show must abide by a strict set of rules and dress code. The choir has to arrive as a group or they will not be allowed on stage. After rehearsal, the students are outfitted with robes, collars and battery-operated candles for the spectacular open-air presentation.

Booked through Leisure Time Travel, the tour will allow ample time for side-trips to Cocoa Beach, Epcot Center, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studio, a New Year’s Eve celebration, Animal Kingdom and shopping. The choir will arrive back in Pierz at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 2, 2014. Students will miss only one day of class.

Hauan said choir members currently are in the process of getting their required medical forms and releases filed. To help with the cost of transportation, meals and lodging, the students have done a lot of fundraising in recent months.

Pierz School Board Briefs

In other agenda items at the October 30 meeting, the Pierz School Board:

• Accepted donations from the Pierz Lions for the Art Club’s Empty Bowls project ($250), the cross country team ($250) and for a football coach ($1,500); from the Pierz Area Commercial Club for the National Honor Society ($500) and for the football program ($500); from the Pierz Fire Department for the football program ($500); from Pierz Vet for the FFA program ($265); and from Walmart to the Video Club ($250);

• Hired Kari Mitchell, Lynn Gross and Shelly Erdrich as paraprofessionals at Pioneer Elementary School, and reduced Sheri Kroska’s hours to three days per week. Also accepted was the resignation of Laurie Pry, high school education assistant;

• Approved Tina Otremba as a long-term substitute for Sandy Swaser; Morgan Trang as a long-term substitute for Cameron Anderson and Kelly Gotfredson as a long-term substitute for Lisa Miller. School Nurse Rachel Young was granted a child care leave beginning the first part of December and Lisa Miller for the first part of March 2014;

• Renewed the contract with Melissa Templin to reimburse her for the cost of transporting her student to the border of another district since it is more economical to do so than providing a bus and driver;

• Passed a resolution supporting the district’s application to the Minnesota State High School League Foundation for grants and funding for students participating in extracurricular activities, including athletics and fine arts programs;

• Passed a resolution amending the district’s health reimbursement arrangement to comply with changes in the federal Affordable Care Act. Beginning in 2014, the district can neither offer the current basic plan because it lacks a wellness component, nor put any more funds into the “in lieu of” benefit after Dec. 31. “We have some significant challenges in this area,” said Supt. George Weber about the health care reform. “Another very large issue is how we are going to deal with the law regarding employees who work 30 hours and their salary relative to board contributions.” Pierz is not the only district facing health benefit changes, he said; and

• Adopted a resolution amending the district’s Flexible Benefits Plan to comply with changes in the IRS Code as it pertains to the definition of “spouse.” Language can no longer refer to “person of the opposite sex.”

Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, the next board meeting was rescheduled to Wednesday, Nov. 20, at 6 p.m. in the Healy High Board Room.