Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Snow days forgiven, Barnum discusses leasing a school bus


April 11, 2019

Students in Minnesota schools won’t have to make up any days when the school was closed for cold and snow, Superintendent Dave Bottem told the Barnum School Board at a working meeting on Tuesday, April 2.

“The governor signed a bi-partisan bill forgiving snow days,” he told the board. “We won’t have to make up any days.”

Bottem quoted the cost of leasing a school bus compared to buying a new bus. The cost to lease a bus is $18,583 a year for three years, totaling $55,749, and the cost to purchase a new bus is $93,300. He said that a new bus is needed to replace a bus with an engine problem.

The leased bus would be turned in at the end of the three-year period and a new bus purchased.

“That gives a three-year window,” said Board Chair Paul Coughlin. “I am opposed to leasing more than one bus. That would be more expensive. We have a fairly new fleet otherwise.”

A decision will be made at a later date.

High School Principal Brian Kazmierczak reported he had received a call from one of the tour guides that guided the Barnum choir and band students on their trip to Washington during Spring Break.

“The tour guide said that those kids were one of the best groups that she had ever guided in her 43 years of guiding,” he told the board.

Kazmierczak also said that a grant has been awarded for the class, Introduction to Computer Science, in the fall. Students will be able to take one of two courses, he added.

Elementary Principal Judy Vitito reported that a committee has decided that there will be two sections in fourth grade next year. Dividing other grades into three sections was a priority.

“In first grade, two-thirds of the students fall below the benchmark,” she said. “We need to give them another year with smaller classes sizes to set them up. Sometimes what looks like the right thing to do really isn’t.”

A letter was sent to the families of the third-grade students, and the letter was posted on the school’s website.

She added that veteran teachers have come forward to offer to fill the fourth-grade open position. The position will not be filled by the new teacher that will be hired.

“We talked about how to support those two sections of fourth grade that will be over our target limits (of students per section),” said Vitito. “Paras and other staff can help out.”

Cindy Olson, Executive Director of the Arrowhead Regional Computer Consortium, explained the role of the consortium for its 31 member school districts. The organization provides resources to schools about finance and state requirements for school districts.

“We try to teach school districts how to do things correctly for reports,” she said. “We do a lot of finance training.”

Three representatives of First Net met with the board to describe its services. The company is similar to big companies, such as AT&T, Verizon and so forth, in providing telephone service to non-profits, such as school districts. The benefits of First Net are lower cost and open lines in the event of a crisis, one of the representatives said.

He explained that, during the events on 9-11-2001, it was difficult to coordinate emergency services because the communication lines were overloaded. Because of that, the First Net Authority was established in 2012.

School districts would have 10 lines per building available, and each of the staff members would have a phone that would put them on the First Net highway, he said. Data devices and hot spots would also be available. School buses would have access for evacuation.

“In a nutshell, the system would be specifically designed for public safety,” the representative said. “The lines would be open for making calls to police, fire and other emergency services.”

Prices for the equipment and system were much lower than conventional phone systems, he added.

“First Net has faster speeds and works where AT&T will not,” he concluded.

Interviews of the six candidates for superintendent will take place on April 9, 10 and 11, it was stated. The interviews will be held in the Choir Room and will be open to the public.

Bottem reported that Dave Duesler, the Athletic Director, was able to obtain 12 flags to fit on the light poles of the school.

He also suggested that a LED sign be installed on the school sign by the high school. The cost was estimated at $15,000.

“The sign we have now is analog,” he said. “With an LED sign, the colors on the sign can be changed. It is worth taking a look at.”

Coughlin asked Bottem to get prices.

Duesler had good news to share with the board. He said that, due to declining enrollment, Barnum is now a single-A school instead of a double-A.

“That’s good news in the sports world,” he told the board.

One of the board members asked if there could be a meeting to discuss the duties of the coaches for spring sports. Coughlin said that a committee will be set up at the next monthly meeting.

After the meeting was adjourned, board members visited the high school office where a new circular sign mounted to the wall welcomes students and visitors to Barnum High School. A design was cut into a heavy metal disk by Seniors Brandon Nelson and Cody Johnson, it was said.

The monthly meeting of the board will be held on Tuesday, April 16, at 6:30 p.m.


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