Board gets update on school construction project

By: 
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Kingsland’s students returned to school last Tuesday, Sept. 3, to find a newly painted building with shiny, waxed floors and teachers with smiles just as shiny as the floors.  During the September School Board workshop held Wednesday, Sept. 4, Kingsland Superintendent Jim Hecimovich updated the School Board on the final work being done to complete the long term facilities maintenance (LTFM) and indoor air quality (IAQ) project that offset the school calendar last spring.

Knutson Construction, the general contractor, returned after the end date to carry out punch list items that will help the building operate more smoothly and make staff and students more comfortable as learning happens.

“The painters have come back to do some touchups, the electricians are still working on the bells and clocks because there’s some electrical problems…they’re trying to figure out what happened to the repeater because it wasn’t working and some of the buses came in later,” Hecimovich said. “Knutson will be back – they have their punch list — and the chiller replacement will be in progress over MEA.” 

He informed board members who inquired as to the final cost in comparison to the estimated cost of the project that he would not be able to definitively cite a number until he had consulted with the individuals who hold those numbers, telling the board that he did not want to misquote any final costs.  He asserted, however, that the funds levied for the project were for repairing the school’s sagging floors, boosting the indoor air quality through the replacement of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units and installing another set of pipes to allow for the building to be heated and cooled in the same day so that students who attend may concentrate on their assignments on a fall or spring day without having to freeze or sweat in class.  The project used LTFM and lease-levy funds to address significant health and safety needs, and that even though the building itself was given new finishes, those are part of the process of restoring the building to usable condition. 

“Even if people see televisions, we didn’t levy money to put TVs in – we levied money for sagging floors, to fix the water issues in the basement…for paint, which I think is for health and safety,” he said.

Board Chairperson Jackie Horsman reinforced Hecimovich’s statement, noting that the updates made to the building offer safer, more comfortable learning spaces, even though members of the public might be under the impression that the district garnered $13 million for wants instead of needs. 

Furthermore, Hecimovich commended the building and grounds crew for their hard work in preparing the building for the first day of school, observing that new building and grounds director Jason Thompson has plenty to do and few custodians on staff to help him do those tasks because the district is shorthanded. 

“He’s really busy finishing the work around the building, but with only three of them doing the work during the day, staff has been pitching in taking the garbage out and helping with other things,” Hecimovich said.   

Referendum plans

The board also discussed its communication plans for the upcoming Nov. 5 operating levy referendum that asks the district’s voters to revoke the existing $852 per pupil unit amount and replace it with a total $1,566 per pupil unit – comprised of the $424 local option that the school district can levy without voter approval, plus a proposed $1,142 voter-approved operating levy amount that will be on the ballot. 

A graph of the referendum proposal is available online at https://www.kingsland2019.com/how-we-compare and elaborates on the specifics of the referendum’s mathematics. 

State tests

Hecimovich introduced the district’s Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) data, outlining that Kingsland did well in reading but needs a boost in math. 

“Reading has made a nice improvement, 63.6 percent compared to the rest of the state.  I know we’ll get better because we’re using Action 100, our reading program,” he said. “One concern we’re beginning to find is math, and that’s our next working point.  We’re moving to build our own curriculum, and we’re working on standards, the quality of test-writing to make sure questions are written clearly.” 

Horsman asked, “Has Kingsland ever considered using Minnesota Math Corps?  It’s really growing, and they have data.” 

Board member Leah Stier commented that she’d attempted to help her third grader with his math but found it difficult because of the changes in teaching methods used now as compared to when she learned how to do the same kinds of problems. 

Hecimovich acknowledged that in addition to the different teaching methodology, the expectations of students at each grade level have changed to meet graduation standards set forth by the state, placing students in eighth grade up against algebra problems that predecessors might not have been asked to handle until they reached a higher grade.

Football scoreboard 

The board spoke about replacement of the football scoreboard and the agreement to allow temporary advertisements alongside the display once the new board is purchased. Local businesses wishing to sponsor the purchase will have the opportunity to have their business name posted there for four to five years, as is done in the gymnasium. 

Ultimately, donations and the generosity of local businesses and the Kingsland Athletic Booster Club (KABC) will help bring a new scoreboard to the Kingsland gridiron, hopefully by homecoming, as Hecimovich pointed out that the existing board is the “Leaning Tower of Pisa.”   

Other business

The consent agenda previewed staffing updates that will be considered during the Sept. 16 regular board meeting, including hiring Linda Holland as a preschool assistant, Jeff Tart as bus driver, Steve Tammel as a full-time bus driver after serving as a substitute driver, Christine Rathbun as part-time evening custodian, junior high volleyball coach Maria Raygor and ninth grade volleyball coach Samantha Siskow.

The board also previewed granting leave of absence to Amanda Lorentz and Cindy Erding, and accepting the resignations of Knights of the Round Table advisor Rachael Burt, Kingsland employee Lexi Hardecopf – who will remain in the Kingsland district as an employee of the Southern Minnesota Education Consortium (SMEC), Eric Bicknese from his role as junior high boys’ basketball coach, and Matt Reiland from his position as junior high girls’ basketball coach. 

The September regular board meeting will take place on Monday, Sept. 16, at 6 p.m. in the Kingsland choir room, half an hour earlier than usual, and the next workshop is slated for Monday, Oct. 7, at 6 p.m. in the Kingsland Elementary School conference room.  The public is welcome to attend.  For more information, log onto the Kingsland website at www.kingsland.k12.mn.us, or call the district office at 507-346-7276.