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Insurance pool at the frontline of education innovation

GROVE CITY — Two local school districts are on the ground floor of developing a new way for schools to be insured against property and liability claims.

In July, the Minnesota Department of Commerce gave permission for the creation of the Minnesota Insurance Scholastic Trust.

The program allows school districts to create an insurance pool that helps spread out the risk of its members.

It’s a practice that other government entities have been allowed to do for years, said Dan Tait, business manager at the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District, which is one of the seven charter members of the trust that is sometimes referred to as MIST.

Tait said the Minnesota School Boards Association had pooled insurance programs in the past, but that “morphed into something different” about 15 years ago and schools have had to buy insurance individually, based on their own history of claims, from a limited number of insurance companies that work with schools.

Being allowed to have a pool of districts that share exposure and responsibilities has resulted in more aggressive pricing, said Tait, who estimates ACGC will save about 10 percent on its insurance premiums.

“We were leaving money on the table,” said Tait.

The New London-Spicer district is also a charter member, along with New Prague, Elk River, Winona, Maple Lake and Eastern Carver County. The Albert Lea school district has taken action to join next year.

The founding districts in the Minnesota Insurance Scholastic Trust each have a member on the board of directors that is shaping how the program looks and works.

“We’re still working some of the finer points out,” said Tait, who represents ACGC on the trust board, along with NLS board member Robert Moller.

Tait said he was pleased that the two neighboring rural districts are charter members.

Tait said he expects the “fledgling program” to quickly grow in membership, but said there’s no guarantee that every district that applies will be accepted.

Tait said geography is one factor for membership.

As a way to off-et risk, he said it might not be a good idea to have all the districts located in a tight geographical area that could get hit with the same disaster — like the wind storm that caused significant property damage to ACGC last year.

The program is also expected to expand to workers compensation insurance in the future, said Tait.

“It’s something that’s brand new and it’s growing,” said Tait. He estimates membership could triple in the next five years.

ACGC Superintendent Sherri Broderius said getting on board with the Minnesota Insurance Scholastic Trust is the kind of innovative planning that ACGC has been incorporating into every aspect of the district.

With the help of the district’s advisory committee that provides direction for the district’s future, Broderius said she’s constantly searching for new ways to incorporate technology and teaching kids for the year “2025 instead of 1985.”

Besides gadgets, like iPads, Broderius said schools need to consider a “hybrid” of teaching and technology.

ACGC already uses a new method of “flipped learning” where students watch video lectures at home and then come to class ready to explore the topic and do the real work of the class. Broderius said new options may include providing classes that are not necessarily held in classrooms and may not be conducted during regular school hours.

“I don’t know what it looks like yet,” said Broderius. “I just don’t want there to be limitations.”

Broderius said education can evolve if the players “think as if there is no box.”

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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