Ever since the Rushford-Peterson school district moved into their new building, questions have lingered about the fate of the vacated facilities left in both Peterson and Rushford.

Director Jon Pettit asked to discuss the current state of the facilities at Monday night’s school board meeting. Ironically, it was the same night that Superintendent Chuck Ehler had a presentation concerning that very topic.

“They’ve been sitting vacant for over a year now and I haven’t seen a for sale sign,” Pettit said. “Have we made any agreements with the city on what to do with that building?”

Director Dean Mierau added that he felt “out of the loop” regarding discussions about the facilities. Mierau added that, since he is on the Facilities Committee with Vice Chairperson Joyce Iverson and Director Julie Koop, he should be informed of details concerning sales of the facility.

“Quite frankly, we have done very little in being active in putting out any proposals or for sale signs,” Ehler said, addressing the board. Ehler then said to Mierau, “I apologize that you haven’t been ‘in the loop,’ there really isn’t a ‘loop’ to put you in.”

The discussion then segued into the presentation by Ehler to work with architect and consultant David Kane, who has consulted for the school district since 2007. Kane presented several ideas at a series of public meetings, held shortly after the passing of the referendum.

Most recently Kane has discussed the possibility of turning the building in Peterson into affordable housing units. Ehler asked the board to consider utilizing Kane once more.

Pettit asked what the involvement was of the city (Rushford) with concerns to the district owned property. Ehler noted that there is no formal agreement, however he clarified that the city does have a “vested interest” in what happens to the building. The same can be said for Peterson.

Pettit replied that Peterson may have different desires for what happens with their building, considering some desires of Peterson residents to maintain the individuality of the school of Peterson from before the consolidation.

Ehler noted that Peterson is currently looking at purchasing the land parcels that exist outside of the school, as per an option in the agreement between the district and the city.

“David (Kane) is highly respected in the field and has a lengthy resume… He specializes in working with schools, so he knows all of the ins and outs,” said Ehler. “He’s very passionate about the repurpose and the reuse of older buildings. He believes that with the right person in charge of that they could make them viable as well.”

Kane would work closely with the facilities committee, should an inquiry turn into true interest in purchase of the building. Kane, the facilities committee, and the interested party would put together plans and ideas before the sale is even structured, but would not specifically play a role in the sale of the building itself, just to come up with preliminary ideas to show interested parties what could be possible with the building.

The board unanimously agreed to approve the cooperation with Kane.

Peterson Storage Shed

The R-P school district still has equipment being stored at the former buildings. In the storage shed in Peterson, there are several items of furniture, such as desks and chairs, as well as some older shop equipment.

Ehler proposed moving forward with an auction similar to the recent event held for items in the Rushford location. “This (auction) is only the materials and items in the storage building,” Ehler emphasized. “These are not any items within the confines of the (former school) building itself.”

“The results of the first auction, I thought, were pretty positive,” said Clerk Bonnie Prinsen.

In the recent auction, several Rushford-Peterson residents and alumni informed the district of their aversion to the district’s plan to auction off trophies and banners. The board decided to form a committee that would look towards a more cooperative solution with the community in regards to what to do with these items.

Ehler admitted he had delayed setting up this committee. “I wanted to allow us time to get the new banners in, so people can have a first-hand view of the new banners,” Ehler said. “I thought it would be prudent before moving ahead and having those meetings… to make sure that that happens first.”

Activities Director Dan Bieberdorf shared that this would take place after the end of this current sports season. For now, the banners are stored securely and the trophies are back in their trophy cases at the high school.

The board unanimously approved moving forward with the auction for the items in the Peterson shed only.

Teacher Termination

Vocal Music Teacher Jessica Ingvalson is coming to the end of her second year with R-P schools, and the board approved accepting the resolution to terminate her position. All new teachers begin with a three-year provisionary period in their contract that allows for termination if the hire is not beneficial.

Few details were given to explain the termination, a fact that Pettit did not appreciate. “I would really like the MSBA (Minnesota School Board’s Association) to give me more information, specifically with regards to someone’s career,” Pettit said.

The MSBA provided the wording in the official resolution relating to Ingvalson’s termination. “A ‘new direction for the program’ is an age old cop-out in my opinion,” said Pettit, referencing language used in the resolution. “When I see that, it makes me think that we’re dealing with something that we just don’t want to fix.”

Prinsen noted the nationwide teacher shortage and suggested that the solution might not be to move on from teachers, but to help grow them. “Teachers are finding it is in their best interest to invest in mentorship programs,” said Prinsen.

Ehler informed Prinsen that each teacher is given an in-house mentor for their first year. He also noted that the administration addresses any concerns that may pop up and has the “difficult conversations” to clearly communicate expectations for teachers.

When the roll call vote came, the decision clearly was a difficult one for some board members. The board paused before a motion was made by Koop and hesitated before a second was given by Treasurer Valerie Howe.

Pettit voted in the negative while Iverson abstained, but the vote still passed 5-1 in favor of Ingvalson’s termination.

Change Order

The board approved a change order for $71,124.21 for various construction line items that had not yet been approved. Though all items had been completed, a few spots stood out for board members.

One item added $7,700 to add a handicap door operator. “How did the architect miss that?” asked Mierau. Ehler replied that the operator wasn’t necessary to put the school into compliance.

Pettit asked about a $12,251 addition for a spray booth. The booth is an addition to the shop class area. “The current system was not effective at removing enough of the fumes in a timely matter,” said Ehler.

“In a new building, I find that highly disturbing. These people were well paid to get it right the first time,” added Pettit.

Ehler informed the board that engineers will attend an upcoming board meeting to receive feedback concerning the school. Ehler said he will address these issues at this meeting.

The council approved the change order unanimously.

The next school board meeting will be on March 19 at 5:30 p.m. All members of the public are invited to attend.