Three 2023 school buses and 1,500 Chromebooks were among purchases approved by Hastings Board of Education members during their board meeting Monday at Hastings Middle School.

With board members Chris Shade and Tracey Katzberg absent, the board voted 7-0 to approve Hastings Public Schools’ monthly expenditures of $3.72 million, with Brent Gollner making the motion and Jodi Graves seconding it.

After hearing the superintendent’s report delivered by Jeff Schneider, the board was shown a brief PowerPoint presentation about Lincoln Elementary School’s K-5 after-school program given by Principal Cara Beckenhauer. The Spotlight on Learning presentation included a brief history on the fledgling program, which is funded by a 21st Century Grant and represents the district’s lone after-school program currently offered.

Available exclusively to students at Lincoln, the program — which operates through a partnership with Hastings Family YMCA — began in September 2020 and has shown considerable growth since, Beckenhauer said. Program goals include providing a safe space for students to gather in a supervised environment, opportunities for instilling positive behavior, and improved overall student success.

Described by Schneider as “an extension of the school day, but it’s not school,” the program operates from 3-6 p.m. Monday through Friday most school weeks and includes a healthy snack during the three-hour session.

There are currently 105 students enrolled in the program, with about 85 students attending on a daily basis, Beckenhauer said. A director oversees daily activities, assisted by a staff of six. Activities include games, outdoor play, homework time, and arts and crafts projects.

Partners in the mix include local 4-H clubs, the Prairie Loft Center for Outdoor and Agricultural Learning, and Nebraska Extension. Plans to expand the program include offering a cooking club, sports club, and other possible additions.

The board’s 7-0 approval of the purchase of three Thomas school buses at a cost of $506,850 includes two 46-passenger buses and a handicapped-accessible bus with wheelchair lift. The buses are earmarked to arrive for the 2022-23 school year. Funding will come from Elementary and Secondary School Emergency School Emergency Relief Funds.

The board’s 7-0 approval of the purchase of 1,500 Chromebooks at a cost of $382,500 will be reimbursed through Emergency Connectivity Funds, said Trent Kelly, director of technology and operations for the school district. Kelly called the one-time purchase “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

In other business, the board voted 7-0 to approve Hastings Education Association as the exclusive bargaining agent for the 2023-24 school year.

By unanimous vote, the board approved a change to school calendar to make Nov. 5 an in-service planning day for staff.

Also by unanimous vote, the board reaffirmed the district’s Multicultural Education Policy reflecting its commitment to respecting diversity.

The board voted 7-0 to approve 10th, 11th and 12th overall change orders for the remodel of Morton Elementary School totaling $3,991.

The board entered into executive session in accordance with the Nebraska Open Meeting Law prior to returning to open session to adjourn the meeting.