The Menahga School Board awarded the bid for elementary school and middle school remodel projects on Monday.

There were four bidders, with Pro Contractors Inc. of Menahga submitting the lowest base bid at $486,800.

The base bid involves the early learning wing, explained Superintendent Kevin Wellen. With the preschool program returning to the campus and bringing 40 students, “they are in two rooms jam-packed with stuff. They’re about two-thirds the size of what they should be, which is why I asked them to make that area the base bid because we have four rooms out of compliance – the two preschool rooms and the kindergarten rooms.”

The school district also requested alternate bids for special education remodeling and middle school administration remodeling. Pro Contractors only submitted a bid for admin remodel, at $67,500, due to the company’s bid bond threshold. Wellen noted this was the lowest bid as well.

Wellen suggested either rebidding the special education remodel project, or if it will come in under $100,000, the district could simply solicit quotes.

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Board member Brad Goehrig proposed holding off on construction for another few years. Hypothetically, he said, the coronavirus could hamper state revenues. “What are the odds that all of a sudden now that our finding is cut by 20 percent?” Goehrig asked.

“We would still be okay for a year,” Wellen said. “There are neighboring districts, not far away, that the wheels would fall off. Because we have enough money in the bank, we can weather any storm that will defeat another district. We are solid in that way, so I’m not nervous about that. The worst-case scenario for us is that we may need to do some borrowing at that very low interest rate.”

The motion to award the base bid and admin remodel alternate bid to Pro Contractors passed 4-2, with Goehrig and school board member Bob White opposed.

The board also accepted Foss Architecture’s proposal for construction administration services, opting for the $12,800 lump sum fee. Among the services Foss will provide are six bi-weekly onsite construction coordination meetings, one pre-final inspection and punch-list generation, one final inspection, review of contractor submittals and review of project closeout documentation.

Coaching salaries

After lengthy debate, the board approved to pay spring coaches and advisors their full salaries.

Wellen and Athletic Director Don Donarski both recommended paying in full, despite shortened or cancelled seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes advisors for FCLA, Business Professionals of America and speech.

“No one saw this coming, and the state has guaranteed revenue. The coaches made a good faith effort to have a program. We feel like it’s the right thing to do,” Wellen said.

The vast majority of districts are paying coaches in full, while about one-third are prorating salaries, he noted.

Wellen shared an update from the Minnesota Association of School Administrators about legislative action. “School aid formulas will be adjusted so that revenue is not lost to schools due to COVID-19 closures and adjustments to the delivery of educationally-related services for special education aid, school meals, career and technical revenue, nonpublic pupil transportation aid, interdistrict desegregation transportation aid, integration revenue, literacy incentive aid, school-age care revenue, early childhood screening revenue, and adult basic education aid,” he reported.

Goehrig expressed concern that paying in full could set a precedent.

Wellen recommended looking at next year’s activity contracts and deciding what, if any, parameters should be added. He said the Minnesota School Board Association is also working on recommended language.

Coach planning occurs all year long, Wellen pointed out, saying it could be difficult to recruit coaches in the future if they won’t be paid due to unforeseen circumstances. “We’re having a tough time as it is,” he said, adding that coaches aren’t paid extra when teams go on to state tournaments nor are they paid less when they don’t make it to playoffs.

The motion passed 5-1, with board member Katie Howard opposed.

In other business, the school board did as follows:

  • Approved Trevor Horning as assistant football coach and Tim Wurdock as head boys basketball coach, with terms and conditions to be determined in case the season is abbreviated or cancelled due to COVID-19.

  • Congratulated Nichole Weston on being named Menahga’s Teacher of the Year by Education Minnesota Menahga.

  • Accepted a $2,000 GenYouth and Midwest COVID-19 Emergency School Nutrition Funding Grant.

  • Approved the summer food service program, beginning June 8. It will be pick-up only service.

  • Learned that summer recreation programming is on hold, due to the pandemic. Donarski shared poll results of 24 school districts, where 71 percent put summer rec on hold, 21 percent shut it down and 8 percent modified their programs.

  • Learned that drivers education classes will be conducted through Zoom. Behind-the-wheel training will begin once safety protocols are established.

  • Reviewed proposals for a new marquee sign, but tabled until the June meeting.

  • Approved agreements with cooks, custodians and clerical staff for 2019-2021.

  • Accepted a letter of resignation from elementary teacher Michelle Kero and thanked her for her five years of service.

  • Approved the plan for Class of 2020 seniors to purchase their school-issued Chromebook laptops, at $225 each. The price is based on two years of depreciation.