Royalton School Board addressing future facility needs
by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
The Royalton School Board is forming a Facilities Planning Committee to investigate district facility needs.
“We’re at capacity in our buildings,” said Director Jim Block. “We need to fix them or build new.”
Using information from a recent demographic study and considering repairs which are currently required to both the elementary and secondary school buildings, the committee will be seeking more information regarding the current buildings as well as considering the possibility of new structures.
“Just as an example, the univents (air handlers) in the older wing of the elementary school have a 20-year life expectancy and are now about 46 years old,” Supt. Jon Ellerbusch said. “We don’t get the air circulation that we need.”
In addition to building integrity, both school safety and space are issues facing the Board.
The Board did a walk-around of both school buildings in March, assessing all of these challenges.
“We have more safety procedures in place than the Board realized,” Ellerbusch said.
“We believe we have a very secure school system,” said Board Chair Michelle Carlson. “But we feel we have room for improvement.”
“I see a long-term goal of having one campus,” said Director Tom Justin. “We have the land and we have the infrastructure. I’m not averse to spending money for a new facility rather than dumping that amount into an aging building.”
One of the biggest questions facing the Board is whether to accept growth in the district.
“Do we want growth?” asked Justin. “Open enrollment saved the district and keeps it afloat to this day.”
“Are you open to growth? We need to investigate different possibilities,” Ellerbusch said. “We need to visit with different people.”
“Do we want to cap enrollment or continue open enrollment?” Carlson asked.
Ellerbusch suggested forming a committee comprised of both board members and community members.
The Board approved moving forward with the committee, starting with inviting community members to join the committee with Board Members Block, Dale Lenz and Liz Verley.
“We do not want to make rushed, hasty decisions,” said Ellerbusch. “We want to take some time and get more information to the Board.”
Other business that came before the Royalton School Board Monday included:
• Approving the March bills payable amounting to $172,47.40;
• Discussing the proposal brought via Royalton Elementary Principal Dr. Phil Gurbada from the kindergarten teachers, who have proposed that parents or other adult family members accompany their students on the first day of school, which will be an orientation;
• Learning that the elementary student talent show will be held Thursday, May 9 at 1:15 p.m. in the gym;
• Approving the hiring of Melanie Cimenski as secondary English teacher and Laurie Larsen as a long-term substitute special education paraprofessional;
• Approving the hiring of the following volunteer coaches: Isaac Kruger for varsity softball, Ken Schmitz for junior high softball, Mark Cekalla for junior victory league (JVL) baseball, Jon Ellerbusch for JVL baseball, Jeff Swenson for JVL baseball, Jim Zimny for JVL baseball, Amy Krueger for junior varsity softball, Isaac Krueger for junior varsity softball, Dave Waletski for junior varsity softball, Joel
Swenson for tossball and John Walburn for tossball;
• Approving the resignation of middle school/high school math teacher Cassandra Deering and elementary teacher Lora Jacobson;
• Hearing that Mid-State Education District is interested in moving the Success program to the Upsala Elementary school. “They have added to the culture of our school,” said Supt. Jon Ellerbusch. “We did have room, but our enrollment is growing now and another school can accommodate them.” Director Dale Lenz said, “It is strictly a space issue;”
• Accepting donations from the Rice Area Sportsmen for $100, the Wrestling Club for $178.08 to cover charter bus costs to Minneapolis and the Wrestling Club for $172.51 to cover custodial expenses from the elementary wrestling tournament;
• Approving the application for $1,000 from an Initiative Foundation grant;
• Approving a change in hours for kitchen helper Leticia Klisch to 4.5;
• Learning that overall, the Board is pleased with the direction the school is going, an observation made during the superintendent’s annual evaluation. “We have areas for growth for Dr. Ellerbusch,” said Board Chair Michelle Carlson. “After the legislative session ends and numbers come out, we will be able to set goals for him for the upcoming school year,” said Director Tom Justin;
• Setting the first day of school in the fall as a middle school orientation day. “Teachers thought it worked so well for the students,” said Ellerbusch. “Teachers asked for more class time that day, so the students will meet for half an hour for each class. It’s a day that we focus on the middle schoolers;” and
• Approving the extension of the current school year through May 31 for a snow day make-up day, with a 5-1 vote. Teachers will make up two days in June being trained to meet upcoming standards in evaluating other teachers. The only dissenting vote was by Justin, who said, “I can not support this without knowing how we address the loss of four student contact days for grades 9-12.”
The next School Board meeting has been moved to Tuesday, May 21, at 6 p.m.