The Moose Lake School Board voted to return to block scheduling with a five-period day at the meeting of the board on Monday, February 24.
It was said the school used block scheduling from 1997 to 2006. It was a successful program but the schedule had been changed back to seven-period days.
Each class would be 72 minutes long under block scheduling. High school Principal Billie Jo Steen said she has been working on a schedule but it is not firm as yet. She assured the board the block schedule would be ready for registration and be implemented for the 2014-15 school year.
Steen reported there would be a cost savings of $22,000 but new curriculum would reduce that cost savings to about $10,000.
The board approved the school calendar for 2014-15 that aligns with block scheduling.
Sharing classes with the Willow River School District has been discussed, said Steen. That district has no teachers who can teach college-level courses. There is a possibility that a science teacher who is qualified to teach college-level courses might be shared with Willow River but that has not been determined.
The board agreed with motions to reduce teaching staff, and a part-time science position is one that was on the list of reductions, unless that teacher is shared with Willow River.
Two full-time teaching positions will be reduced through attrition. One elementary teacher and one high school teacher are retiring and will not be replaced. The school will be kept to two sections in every class, except possibly kindergarten, if more than a certain number of students are enrolled.
There was a discussion about consolidation with the neighboring school districts. The Barnum School Board has declined to enter into further discussions about consolidation at this time, it was said.
“The consolidation issue keeps coming up,” said board member Jamie Jungers. “If nothing happens, we have to have another plan.”
School district residents Bruce Lourey and Byron Kuster spoke about their efforts to work with the Legislature to secure $20 million in funding for the Moose Lake School District to replace the school building with an entirely new campus on the County Road 10 property. That would leave approximately $15 million for the school district residents to fund through bonding.
“This building is 80 years old and is in a bad location,” said Lourey. “If you commit millions to remodel this building, you are stuck here. People won’t go for millions later if enrollment increases and another addition is needed. I’m not against consolidation but a new building would make it a whole lot easier.
“This is a good year, with the budget surplus and a Legislature that supports education, to get legislative support for our proposal. They have money, we just need to convince the Legislature that we have a good case. We have a low tax base; four bond referendums have failed in a row.”
Kuster reported that, if the Legislature doesn’t pass the $20 million in funding for a new school, they would work with the Legislature the following year to secure triple equity funding, a proposal that would help other school districts also replace aging school buildings.
“This is not school-driven,” he added. “We met with Bob (Superintendent Indihar) and Pat Oman of the city. We are pushing to get a new school. Two-thirds of the cost of a new school could be granted by the Legislature. People always look at the school when they move to the area. This school does not look like it is ready for a 2014 education.”
Supt. Indihar was pleased about members of the community coming forward to help.
“This is what is needed, a push from the community,” he said. “They are going down to St. Paul on their own.”
Kuster asked that more community members join them as they travel to the Legislature. He said he can be contacted through his email address, email@example.com, with “school” in the subject line.
Overdue lunch bills were discussed.
Supt. Indihar said it is the school’s policy to give students sandwiches and milk if their lunch bills are overdue.
He said there had been about $5,000 in overdue lunch bills but most of that had been paid after parents were contacted. Parents who have not paid will be repeatedly contacted until the bills are paid.
“If the family is really struggling we will try and get them on the Free and Reduced Lunch program,” said Supt. Indihar. “This in an uncomfortable issue but we do not allow students to go without food.”
Teacher Joanne Unzen said the elementary teaching staff often pays for meals for students who can’t afford to eat, and they also keep crackers in their classrooms for snacks between mealtimes. The school counselor said she keeps granola bars in her office.
“We can’t teach a child to read when their stomachs are growling,” she said.
The sale of land to developer, Land and Lease, is moving forward but one sentence had been left out of the contract, reported Supt. Indihar. Attorneys John Warp and Marguerite Doran are working on adding that sentence back in.
It is expected the school district will be paid $100,000 for the land by the city, who now owns the land, after the city has been paid.
If the sale is successful, Supt. Indihar said the proceeds from the sale will be invested in curriculum and technology.
Sale of school district land to the Central Minnesota Housing Partnership is also moving forward, he added.
Transportation Supervisor Jeff Olson and a representative of Hogland Bus Company met with the board to discuss leasing buses for another three years. Olson said the leasing program has been working extremely well. He is able to have parts delivered when he needs them.
The board referred the cost estimates for the leased buses to the Finance Committee.
In other business, the board passed the revised budget for the 2014-15 school year. Nearly $275,000 in cuts were recommended by the Finance Committee because the district has been deficit spending.
The cuts would mean not replacing the two teachers who are retiring, reducing the science position, reducing the library budget by $7,000 for one year, delaying hiring a custodial supervisor, combining a short bus route with another route to save having to lease one bus, and cutting Literacy Camp. There would be additional funds from the land sale and from changing to block scheduling.
The next meeting of the Moose Lake School Board is set for Monday, March 17, at 5 p.m.