Menahga School addition roughly 40 percent complete
Bob White took his oath of office at Monday's Menahga School Board meeting. He was appointed to fill the position left open by Jon Kangas' election to the Wadena County Board.
Building addition update
The board discussed winter conditions billing, such as frost and snow removal and ground heaters, with construction manager Nick Ylitalo of Vercon.
"It's been no secret that the winter has been brutal on our schedule. It's been a struggle," Ylitalo said. "If we look at the last seven weeks, trying to get the roofing done, about three weeks were actually productive weeks because of weather."
There had been discussion about pushing the start of school back one week, but Ylitalo said that shouldn't be necessary. "We have five solid months to make this happen."
Weather conditions should improve over the next week, he said, whereas construction, especially roofing and concrete, was largely dictated by weather for the last three months.
Substantial completion is expected by the time school starts in September 2019, agreed Superintendent Kevin Wellen.
Board chair Andrea Haverinen asked how spring thaw and soft ground affects construction.
"Mainly, it's access to the building, but we'll do what we need to do to maintain access," Ylitalo replied, adding, "We'd like to be further along, but by design, we also had a lot of extra time built in the summer months, never knowing what winter will bring, and we've had the worst winter in 20-some years."
Board member Durwin Tomperi asked how much of the project was complete, if "100 percent" is turn-key ready.
Ylitalo said that's usually measured in dollars because it's labor and materials to date.
Wellen said 41 percent of the budget has been spent.
Given the tight schedule, Tomperi said that Wellen will keep the trades "on task."
"There's no wiggle room anymore," Wellen agreed, adding, "We've been pushing a sense of urgency" for the past month, even if it means overtime or extra crew onsite.
Elementary Principal Jeannie Mayer reported that the school received two grants for Stimulating Maturity through Accelerated Readiness Training (SMART).
Paul Pearson wrote a grant for $7,500 and Mayer received a $2,500 matching grant from Sourcewell.
Applying brain-based movement is part of the curriculum, along with multi-sensory stimulation that students need to learn and grow, Mayer explained. Cross-body movement gets the brain stem involved in learning, she said.
The board approved the preliminary 2019-20 budget. Revenues are projected as follows: $11,738,989 for general fund; $628,413 for food service; $179,969 community service fund; $34,017 building fund; $878,419 debt service; $700 Suvanto Scholarship and $211,947 student activity fund. Total revenues equal $13,672,453.
"The biggest thing driving our expenditures is the building fund itself," Wellen noted. "And remember, we anticipate spending $1 million on the gym and additional cost for the office. It's included in there."
The budget is a guide, he added, so it's not precise and anticipates a 2 percent increase in the state's per pupil formula.
Business manager Kyle Bergem agreed that revenues are approximate. "A few changes in student enrollment numbers really affects that part of the budget. That's what drives the revenue," he said. In addition, once the new building is functional, it will take a couple billing cycles to hone in on its utilities expenses.
Expenditures are estimated at $11,705,396 general fund; $581,640 food service; $179,190 community service; $1,598,250 building fund; $864,250 debt service and $211,947 student activity fund. The total is $15,140,673.
Nichole Weston reported on the robotics team's competitive efforts.
"We are a brand-new, rookie team," she said. Weston, along with husband Toby, mentor the team.
Students successfully built a working robot, named "Iota," in 5.5 weeks, despite losing 11 days of build time, Weston noted.
At the regional contest, held March 6 in Duluth, the team lost its first two matches, placing 60th out of 60 teams.
"We hit rock bottom, and after that, we quickly rose and never looked back. I'm very proud of this team," she said. "We made the playoffs and ended in 8th place out of 60, and we'll be stronger next year."
The team missed the semi-finals by two points, but there's "a very, very good chance" they still make a state appearance due to earning 10 extra points for being a rookie team, Nichole said. They will know in four more weeks.
The Westons are also hoping for more team members next year.
"It is the most stressful, but exhilarating coaching I've ever done, and I've coached every year that I've been in this district," Nichole said.
"I'll second that. I've had a lot of stressful jobs, but those two days were the top," Toby said, "It all paid off in the end."
In other business, the school board:
• Approved the recommendation to make up four snow days by having students attend school on May 31, June 3 and June 4 (with early dismissal at 12:10 p.m.) and by having a self-directed staff development day in a minimum of two-hour blocks.
• Learned from High School Principal Mark Frank that there are $44,000 in verbal commitments to sponsor the new sports scoreboard for the first year alone. "I'm overwhelmed and thankful for the amount of support," he said. The cost of the board is $63,000, which will be paid off through sponsorships over three years.
• Approved the purchase of student management/electronic grading system from Infinite Campus for a one-time set up fee of $17,650 and an annual fee of $14,649, as recommended by the principals. This will replace the current Skyward program.
• Learned that Menahga Elementary Principal Jeannie Mayer was named Sourcewell's 2019 Leader of Educational Excellence. She will be recognized at a May 8 banquet.
• Received an intent to negotiate from the teachers' union. Wellen said a few concerns were brought to his attention that he recommends discussing at a "meet and confer."
• Accepted the letter of resignation from English teacher Jennifer Farnam at the end of the 2018-19 school year. She is retiring after 39 years of dedicated service to the district.
• Accepted the letter of resignation from elementary teacher Adele Esala, who is retiring at the end of the school year. She served the district for 33 years.
• Accepted the letter of resignation from special education teacher Jean Kruft at the end of the 2018-19 school year. The board thanked her Jean for her five years of dedicated service and wished her the best in her retirement.
• Approved these spring coach assignments: head softball Lindsey White; asst. softball Logan Redetzke; junior high softball Ashley Bachmann; junior high softball Keylee Sommers; head baseball Nick Jasmer; asst. baseball Scott Petrowski; junior high baseball Riley Massie; head boys and girls golf Tim Wurdock; asst. golf Kevin Sommers and Austin Storm.
• Approved Makayla Hillukka's request to attend the Business Professionals of America nationals in Anaheim, Calif. for Business Law and Ethics from May 1-5, with the district paying travel expenses within the state.
• Approved the continued employment of board member Bob White by the Menahga School District, as long as compensation does not exceed $8,000 for fiscal year 2019.
• Learned that Menahga will be hosting the 2019 Sub-Section 23A speech tournament on March 30.
• Accepted a $500 donation from Thomas Hass of Park Rapids Avionics for the Menahga Robotics team.
• Authorized the superintendent to purchase a 10-passenger van.
The next regular school board meeting is 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 15 in the high school media center.