School board approves HVAC work, construction projects start soon

By : 
Jordan Gerard

The Spring Grove School Board approved several consecutive bids from Winona Controls for heating, venting and air conditioning work for a total of $104,900.

Before the voters of the district have a heart attack, the work was planned when the district voted to change the main entrance to the school and will be funded with Long-Term Facilities Maintenance money. It’s also a result of a compressor going out unexpectedly in the new math lab (former office location).

Ceiling tiles will also be replaced, instead of patched, while the work is completed, Superintendent Rachel Udstuen said.

“Let’s do it right instead of patchwork,” she said. “They (Winona Controls) designs the HVAC system with their expertise for what we need.”

Winona Controls has worked with Spring Grove School before and knows the building, she added.

In the bids, $73,000 will pay for the HVAC and plumbing systems in the new office location. In the new math lab location, $31,900 will pay for the HVAC system and plumbing, which will also include work to the bathrooms in the main gymnasium.

“I feel confident with the project,” Udstuen said. “It’s costing us more, but it’s also a project that makes sense for us to do it right.”

Winona Controls was the only company to submit a bid.

Update to construction

The school board approved a special meeting on Monday, July 2, at 6 p.m. to discuss several items, one being choosing construction sub-contractors to start and complete work to the entrance, office and math lab. Bid packages have been set for each sub-contractor.

New this school year, the main entrance to school will be on the south corner of the building, on Highway 44 and 2nd Ave. NW, located under the library. 

The library will largely remain where it is with a few changes to furniture and design of the room. Visitors will arrive in the district office and after checking in, will be able to go into the building. 

The math lab is currently held in the computer labs but will be moved to the original district office space. 

Udstuen told the board construction meetings are held Mondays at 8 a.m. to discuss where the project is at. At the meetings are Brent Messner, head of maintenance; Udstuen; Andy Allen of Allen Construction and Bonnie Giesler, project coordinator. Board members are welcome to attend the meetings.

Work for the math lab will start July 15 and in the meantime, Messner and his staff are working to get things ready for construction. A start date was not confirmed for the entrance and office project.

Before any sub-contractors are chosen, the board will review bids and approve their choices.

“There’s a lot happening, but a hammer hasn’t been thrown yet,” Udstuen said.

In addition to the current construction happening, Udstuen encouraged the board to think ahead for a redesigned science lab space, as the room will be empty in the fall, but see 31 students in a chemistry class later in the year.

“We can’t have a second section unless we hire another teacher,” Udstuen said. “Mr. Vix said he’s comfortable with 31, but the design is tricky. It’s pretty crowded in there.”

The ideal solution would be moving the lab stations out to the edge of the classroom and then having worktables in the middle of the room.

The board agreed to let Udstuen seek out costs for that project, but no formal action was taken.

She also mentioned the cafeteria would be in need of an update, especially in terms of dehumidification and how summer heat affects the room.

Principal’s report

Principal Nancy Gulbranson said the school’s Lion’s Academy would be starting soon and there were 67 kids signed up. Two programs with targetive services will help kids with math and reading in grades one to five, and seven and eight.

Julianna Lile will be helping 22 seventh and eighth graders in need of reading or math help. Several older students will also attend Lion’s Academy for credit recovery.

Teachers recommended kids in first through fifth grades for the program. In addition to math and reading help, students will also work with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) projects.

“The nice thing is we get both programs — kids who need academic support and ones who don’t,” Gulbranson said. “We’re anticipating we’ll have more than 67 kids, with a few coming back from vacation.”

Thrivent Financial and Northern Engraving also offered to build into the system, providing $250 scholarships. That money will be used to get prizes or incentives

Gulbranson also listed new and returning support programs for teachers and students. 

At the April board meeting, Elementary teachers Kelsey Morken and Matt Rosaaen talked to fellow teachers and then presented to the board the idea of having assessment days in September.

The board approved that idea and decided there would be no “Back to School Night” this year.

Assessment Days will be Sept. 4 and 5 for K-six grades. Sept. 6 would be the first day of school for those students. Grades seven-12 would attend classes as normal (with school starting Sept. 4).

Assessment days allow teachers, students and parents to get to know each other. It’s especially helpful for teachers to see where students are at academically. Caledonia and Mabel-Canton districts have had success with their assessment days.

A new support program will help substitute teachers navigate the electronics of today’s learning, such as the student’s Mac Airs and projectors. 

As previously mentioned at the May board meeting, Spring Grove Public Schools is trying out a combined K-1 class. 

The new class is a step toward multiage classes the school would like to try out, Udstuen said then.

“It will be very powerful for students in the class,” Gulbranson said. “We’re very excited about it.”

When asked what class those students are in, they will say their respective class; so a kindergartner would say he or she is in kindergarten. Students will move onto the next grade at the end of the year; kindergarten into first and first into second grade.

Other new or returning programs include working with K-12 digital citizenship curriculum, for teachers and students. This course will relate to social media and how it affects students and how to handle problems that happen online.

Gulbranson also mentioned more would be done with having students college and career ready, including connecting them with workplaces and colleges.

Teachers will receive support with a mentor-mentoree program. This program will also help associate them with software such as Schoology and EduClimber, two programs the school uses.

Attendance was also another program that would receive more attention this year. Gulbranson presented the idea of creating a brochure that talks about the legal consequences of not attending school (in terms of truancy). 

It would also include what is and is not approved, school policies and advice for parents. A county judge may also sign off on the brochure.

“Most of our kids do a very good job of getting here,” she said. “Sometimes health reasons or stress on a family can deter that. Our job is to work with you to make sure your student is at school.”

Gulbranson also mentioned the satellite Alternative Learning Center from Hiawatha Valley Education District (HVED) that would be hosted at Spring Grove this year.

To provide clarification, the site is one that will include only kids from Spring Grove using video streaming services to connect with teachers and kids in other schools in the HVED district. Gulbranson did not say how many students would be enrolled in the program.

Superintendent’s report

In her superintendent’s report, Udstuen told the board about new library furniture that would be arriving in time for school to start. The board has yet to approve the quotes for the furniture.

There will be new movable bookshelves, cafe tables, arched windows bringing in natural sunlight, comfortable chairs for reading, a reading nook, ottomans and bigger tables for students to work at.

New furniture will also be in the upper hallway and different table heights and flexible seating in a high school classroom.

Also in her report, she mentioned the school met two World’s Best Workforce goals and improved in other areas.

The district succeeded in increasing the number of pre-k children who receive a “Transition to K” assessment from 81.5 percent in 2017 to 96.2 percent in 2018.

The district had a big jump in the number of students who are “career ready” from 63.3 percent in 2017 to 92 percent in 2018.

Fiscal report

The board approved the proposed 2018-19 budget, which has a lot of moving targets, District Accountant Tanya Elton said. 

The school is currently in the process of spending some Local Option Revenue (LOR) dollars. There is currently about $196,000 in that account. 

Elton added there might be additional revenue coming in because the legislature settled late and pension has not been totaled yet. 

“We knew going in those settlements would come the second year. There’s some anticipated costs,” she said. “It looks bad, but it’s not really as bad as it looks.”

Bonds will also be spent on a few projects around school. The school will pick up about $150,000 in revenue from contract settlements.

The school’s debt redemption is a $30,000 bond payment, which will increase to $65,000 this year. The long-term facilities maintenance fund helps pay the debt off in a debt service fund. 

The board also approved an agreement to waive two percent of basic revenue for staff development requirement. That money goes into the budget and provides an additional $42,000 to the school. They still spend money on staff development, which comes from other funds, Elton said.

Personnel report

Varsity girls basketball coach Aly Meyer turned in her resignation to the board because she would be student teaching during that time. The board approved it and thanked her for her years of service.

The board approved Susie Yahnke to a full time position in the media center to help with grade books, in addition to her other duties.

The board approved a contract increase for speech language pathologist Kristi Griffin in the 2015-16 school year and agreed to pay her $11,112 in back pay.

Udstuen told the board that HVED recommends caseloads for special education teachers, which is 35 to 50 hours in Region 10 of Minnesota (the area covers from Cannon Falls to Caledonia and Winona to Albert Lea).

Two times in the school year HVED does a workload analysis to determine the teacher’s caseload. Teachers are coded as being below the recommended caseload range, within the range or above the range. The workload analysis then adjusts based on the teacher’s FTE.

Griffin is a .602 FTE and her caseload was adjusted to reflect that.

During the 2015-16 school year, the analysis by HVED showed she was within the recommended ranged.

However, in February 2018, a new workload analysis was conducted that included data from the previous two years, and thus it was discovered the 2015-16 workload analysis was incorrect. Griffin was actually above the range that year with a caseload of 62.79 for a .602 FTE.

If the board would have known that in 2016, Udstuen would have recommended her contract be increased to .80 FTE. By doing that, her caseload would be adjusted to 41.03 and bring her within the recommended range.

Of the 14 speech language pathologists in HVED school districts, Spring Grove ranks in the middle with a caseload of 45.15. 

Griffin also resigned her position at Spring Grove to take on a full time position in Houston. The board approved it and thanked her for her years of service.

Other news

The board approved an agreement with Winneshiek Medical Center for sports medicine and athletic training services for 2018-19 for $1,568.

A three-year contract was approved with IEA Environmental, Health and Safety Management Services for Fiscal Years 2019-21. The cost will be $3,800 in the first year, $3,900 in the second year and $4,000 in the third year.

The company also notified the school about a small amount of asbestos present in the school. The board approved a contract with Mavo Systems from Rochester for $2,170 to remove the asbestos quickly.

The board approved an agreement with Hiawtha Valley Mental Health Center for a mental health support worker for students. Previously this position was funded by a grant, however that is not there anymore, Udstuen said. 

Hiawtha Valley asked the district to pay a portion of the bill, $2,750 for 2018-19. The provider will be in the building one day per week. 

“It’s money we have to spend,” Udstuen said. “I can’t imagine not having it.”

Udstuen said the board will look for different ways to fund this position in the future. 

The board approved a second reading of a model plan for lead testing, which is now required by the state.

The board also approved several policy reviews, which are reviewed every three years.

Lastly, the board approved the use of the Trinity Center for the Lion’s Academy in the event too much construction is going on in the school that might be distracting or dangerous for students.

The Trinity Center agreed to let the board use it for $50 a day, plus maintenance handles garbage.

Udstuen said at this point it would be okay for students to stay in the school.

Next meeting

The board approved a special meeting for Monday, July 2, at 6 p.m. for the discussion of several items.

The next regular school board meeting will be Monday, July 16, at 7 p.m. in the Media Center.

Udstuen also mentioned three board member positions would be up for re-election. Interested parties should talk to Udstuen about running for the spots.