May 24, 2017 Community news from the prairie to the lakes  
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  School makes investment in auditorium, playground
 

At last Monday’s school board meeting, the West Central Area School board passed motions to make serious investments in the auditorium at the Secondary School in Barrett, and the playground at WCA South in Kensington.

WCA Technology Coordinator Kevin McNamara told the board that the secondary school’s auditorium is currently burning 52,000 watts from 92 light fixtures, based on 30 hours of use per week. He said that is because the auditorium, which is 21 years old, used outdated incandescent lamps in its stage and auditorium lighting fixtures. By switching to LED (light-emitting diode) lamps, the lights will burn only 7,800 watts per week, and going from a $10,000 electric bill to a $1,500 one. The school district will also receive a rebate from Otter Tail Power for purchasing the energy efficient lights of around $10,000.

Not only that, but incandescent lamps have about an eight month life expectancy, while LED lights can last for over 30 years.

“New LED lights will pay for themselves in six years and three months,” McNamara said. “And they will enhance our arts programming. We will have the most advanced stage lighting system in the region.”

The new lighting system is expected to be installed in June.

The board also agreed to invest $30,000 in new playground equipment and a playground surface at WCA South. Superintendent Cheney reported that Dean of Elementary Students Jon Moore and Building and Grounds Manager Wade Nibbe talked to two vendors and received drawings of suggested plans for equipment, surface, and installation. A group of parents of WCA South students attended the meeting and were asked to be part of choosing which type of playground they would want.

The parent’s group said they hoped the project could be one phase of a larger project that would address the school parking lot, tennis courts, and other areas on school grounds.

The City of Kensington has agreed to commit $10,000 to the project because the playground is used like a city playground, especially during the summer months.

“Kensington wants a great, safe playground,” a spokesperson for the parents’ group said.

WCA Superintendent Cheney suggested allocating $40,000 in non-general fund resources for the project, but board treasurer Chuck Meidl said he was more comfortable with $30,000, as a starter, with the parents group doing some fundraising.

Board member Gary Sabolik agreed saying he would also like to see a more detailed layout of proposed plans, see what there is in local resources, for surfacing the playground.

“Maybe we could bump up the amount of money later,” he added.

The board passed a motion to allocate $30,000 out of the 2017-18 budget for the playground project.

Dr. Cheney explained that the district has $167,271 in excess Long Term Facilities Maintenance Funds from the July 14, 2016, bond sale. The administration recommends that these funds be allocated to the playground project and Secondary School Auditorium project.

The administration also recommended the school board authorize $78,000 in these LTFM funds for carpet replacement, heating and air conditioning needs, lights in the gym at WCA North, concrete and step repairs at both North and South, and siding on the bus garage at South.

Other business
Secondary teacher Nate Wood gave a report on the field trip to Washington, DC the WCA juniors and seniors recently took. He said the four day trip was awesome, the students were very well-behaved, and there were no problems. He added that hopefully this trip will become a regular thing every other year.

The board accepted a resignation from Heidi Woodle’s full time contract for 4th grade, and agreed to hire her part time to work with K-4 students with interventions in mathematics, along with Shaun Carlson. The board also agreed to hire an additional full-time mathematics teacher Jaclyn Kramer, and a full-time band teacher Nicholas Ganoe. Kramer has had three to four years’ experience in the Perham school system. Ganoe has had three year’s experience, the latest in Aitkin, MN.

Community Education Director Jon Moore reported that summer recreation activities and classes are set and the new summer recreation brochure has gone out. People can register online or by filling out a registration from the brochure.

Moore also reported that the numbers look good for next year for both pre-school and Kindergarten Connection.

Reporting for Buildings and Grounds Manager Wade Nibbe, Superintendent Cheney said the secured entrance project will be starting Monday at WCA North. It should not interfere with school for the remaining two weeks.

Secondary Principal Claire Vincent reported that the secondary school is finishing up registering students for next year’s classes, and there will be 11 students taking first responder testing next week. She also reported that the school will be getting a new mascot in the coming weeks and it will be available for summer festival parades.

Dr. Cheney reported that the new superintendent Barry Schmidt will be visiting the district on Friday, and on June 15 there will be a breakfast with the new ag teacher and interested people about the new direction of the WCA ag program.

Dr. Cheney reported that the pre-school population has grown and there is a need for more staff. The plan, approved Monday, is for splitting 20 North three-year olds into two sections of ten each. The four-year-old program at North for 2017 and 2018 is also up from 20 students to 30.

Staffing for South will remain unchanged as the enrollment is slightly down.

WCA North will be offering a 3:30 p.m until 5:30 p.m. after school program next year that will be self-funded. There are already 16 kids signed up per day for five days a week, and another eight part-time.

“This critical mass of users should insure that we can cash flow this effort without district funds,” Cheney said.

The board approved a new master contract with teachers, that has already been approved by the Teachers Association. The contracts call for 2.75 percent salary increases for each of the next two years.

Dr. Cheney and chief negotiator for the school board Chuck Meidl said negotiations went very smoothly and were completed in an unheard of two meetings.

   
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