Nevis School construction nears completion
BY JEAN RUZICKA
As the first day of school draws nigh, construction continues at the Nevis School with the “priorities” – high school classrooms and the band and choir rooms – expected to be complete.
Completion of early childhood wing and the handicapped accessible restrooms is expected to move into autumn.
But upgrades to the original gym are now “on hold.” The sub-floor was found to have mercury, superintendent Steve Rassier told the board this week, which must be abated. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is urging the school to get rid of it, Rassier said, at a cost of $8 per square foot. “And no one in Minnesota will take it.”The gym’s air will be tested for mercury vapor.After the meeting, Rassier said he does not believe the mercury in the sub-floor is posing or has posed a health hazard due to a “barrier” in the floor.“But now that we know, the goal is to get rid of it as quickly as possible,” he said.The mercury may be headed to a landfill in Michigan. He was contacting contractors on the matter this week.In other action, the board:n Approved the purchase of 280 Microsoft Surface RTs for all students in grades 8-12, based on the technology committee’s recommendations.One hundred will be purchased with keyboards at a cost of $289 each, 180 without keyboards, at a cost of $199 each. An additional $17 in apps will be installed in each machine; the Surface RTs come with Microsoft Office.The keyboards will be used as needed by students.Rassier said QZAB funds can be used to finance the purchase, which is estimated at $65,500. They are expected to last four years.The implementation timeline calls for getting the “elementary up and running first.” Students in kindergarten through seventh grade will receive iPads this fall.The distribution of the tablets will follow.Board member Andy Lindow voted against the decision.n Learned student enrollment is at 571, with numbers fluctuating daily; 535 students arrived on the first week of school a year ago.n Approved the Student and Parent Handbooks, with the only change being the subject of bullying being addressed.“I have concerns with cell phones,” board member Justin Isaacson said. “They should not be used in class.”Principal John Strom agreed. “It’s extremely frustrating,” he said. “I’m personally open to collecting cell phones, but not all teachers agree.”The policy states students with devices “shall demonstrate the greatest respect for the educational environment and the rights and privacy of all individuals.”Most teachers have an “if I hear it, you lose it” policy, Bryan Wormley said. He noted there is significant interaction between parents and students regarding after school activities and other issues with the phones.“If a teacher asks for it and they don’t give it up, they’re in trouble,” Gary Stennes said. “If they won’t give up phones, they go home.n Agreed to hire a coach for the cross country program at an approximate cost of $3,500.Coach Tom Stambaugh, who had coached on a volunteer basis, notified the district he would no longer continue in the position.Athletic director Bryan Wormley was subsequently contacted by parents wanting the co-ed program to continue. Five kids in junior and senior high are currently involved.Working cooperatively with other districts is not feasible as Walker-Hackensack-Akeley doesn’t offer the sport; Park Rapids does not want to participate, Rassier said.The board agreed to fund the program, evaluating this on a year-by-year basis.n Took no action on a bus purchase. Rassier suggested the purchase of a used 2011 77-passenger International bus with 54,000 miles at a cost of $62,500. But the board expressed concern regarding rust issues.“If it’s been used in Minnesota, there are rust issues,” Gary Stennes remarked.The bus in need of replacement has 228,000 miles and in need of “major rust repairs.” Buses log 15,000 to 16,000 miles per year on average, Rassier said.n Approved Jody Dennis as early childhood special education teacher.n Approved coaches and advisors for the coming year, including Shawn Klimek, head football; Michael DeWulf and Brian DeWitt, assistant JV football; Heidi Wormley, varsity volleyball; Danielle Norby, assistant JV volleyball; Savannah Stenberg, assistant 9th grade volleyball and Stacy Feder, junior high volleyball.Melinda Crimmins will serve as advisor for the FCCLA; Edwin Heltunen, Student Council; Lisa Moses, instrumental music; Lou Ann Muhm, Knowledge Bowl; Elizabeth Stone, prom, and Heidi Wormley, TARGET.n Approved fees and admissions for the coming year, with the only change being a 10-cent increase in lunch prices for all grade levels and adults.n Accepted the resignation of bus driver James Hallaway.n Approved independent contracts for finance bookkeeper Tammi Hofmeister, bus mechanic Bruce Babler and Linda Szusbitzky as school psychologist. She will work approximately one day per week.n Approved a contract agreement with Mahube-Otwa for rental of the west conference area and playground for the next year at $300 per month.