By Lorae Vardas, Correspondent
Pioneer Elementary School in Pierz is bursting at the seams. Built in 1991 for 400 students, today it is well over capacity with several portable classrooms in place.
Pierz school officials spent time at the July 30 board meeting reviewing preliminary plans for a multiphase construction project involving both elementary and high school needs. To move the process forward, the board authorized proceeding with the design of an 8,500-square foot, five-room kindergarten addition. It would be attached to the west wing of the current building.
The Board also directed Supt. George Weber to submit the necessary review and comment document to the Minnesota Commissioner of Education for the proposed facilities projects.
Mark Lenz Architects was retained to begin designing the kindergarten addition at a cost of $120,000. Preston Euerle from RA Morton Construction Managers was present to answer questions about the $1.932 million proposed project.
The first phase also involves proposed renovations and additions at the high school projected to cost in the neighborhood of $4.4 million. Included in that scenario are construction of a new, two-story 12,000-square foot fitness/wrestling/multi-use building onto the MAC, repurposing the band/choir area (1,600-square foot), a new 4,000-square foot music room adjoining the PAC, and reconfiguring and replacing the old tennis courts. Together, the kindergarten and high school improvements would come to about $5.337 million
“I have plans to propose a referendum that keeps our tax impact low, like we have historically, and then evaluate how it fits into our construction efforts and overall funding,” said Weber. He reviewed with the Board timelines and steps that need to be taken over the next two months regarding levies as they apply to an operating referendum and establishing or changing a board approved referendum amount.
Because of the complexities of referendum planning in order to get the biggest bang for the buck, Weber suggested scheduling a special meeting in mid-August to make an official determination regarding the proposed referendum and what should appear on the Nov. 4 ballot question.
That meeting was set for Monday, Aug. 18 at 6 p.m. at the Pierz Healy High School.
Pierz School Board Briefs
In other agenda items at the July 30 meeting, the Pierz School Board:
•Accepted a donation of $1,500 from the Rice Area Sportsmen for the Clay Target League, and $250 from the Walmart Foundation for the Video Club;
•Voted to expend $1,800 for the purchase of 250 Grad Bash calendars and placement of an ad in the redesigned calendars that are distributed with the Morrison County Record. The calendars are a major fundraiser for the graduation party, parent Laura Firkus said. Board members stressed the need to shop locally if businesses are asked to support the calendar;
•Under personnel, hired Amy Schlichting, elementary teacher, for the 2014-2015 school year; accepted the resignation of Wendy Meyer, elementary paraprofessional; approved a medical leave for Michelle Litke for the coming year; amended Jolene Goodrich’s resignation notice to retirement, and approved posting of a study hall monitor position at the high school;
•Approved changes to the district’s bullying policy to better align with recommendations from the Minnesota School Boards Association;
•Designated Farmers and Merchants State Bank of Pierz, the MSDLAF and MSDMAX as the district’s official depositories for funds not immediately needed for school operations. The superintendent and business manager were authorized to make those investments. The Morrison County Record continues to be the district’s official newspaper for publishing legal notices;
•Scheduled regular board meetings for the last Wednesday of the month beginning at 6 p.m. in the district office board room at Healy High School. There was no change in board compensation or mileage reimbursement (50 cents per mile) when personal vehicles are used for school business. Board members are paid $80 per regular meeting with special and negotiating sessions prorated based on time. The chair and clerk each earn an extra $20;
•Renewed membership in the Minnesota School Boards Association for the upcoming year at a cost of $4,789;
•Approved property and casualty insurance premiums in the amount of $64,710 and workers comp insurance in the amount of $60,957 with the EMC insurance cooperative.
•Extended the bid received from Agropur Inc. for dairy products for the Brainerd, Pillager and Pierz school districts at the escalated price for 1 percent, skim and chocolate skim milk. Pan O Gold was the low bidder for bread products;
•Raised meal prices 10 cents for the 2014-2015 school year. Full pay breakfast goes to $1.15; full pay lunch for pre-K through grade 6 goes to $1.95; and full pay grades 7-12 goes to $2.15. Adults can eat in the cafeteria for $3.45. Extra milk remains at 40 cents per carton;
•Made no changes to ticket prices, although they are among the lowest in the area. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students. In addition, family passes are available for $100, along with single adult passes at $60 and single student passes at $25 each;
•Set the annual Truth In Taxation public meeting for Dec. 17, at 6 p.m. at the High School Media Center, after which the proposed 2014 (payable 2015) property taxes will be adopted for certification to the county auditor;
•Approved changes to the High School Student Handbook as presented by Principal Karrie Boser. Besides the expanded section on bullying, changes include banning of E-cigarettes and other nicotine delivery devices, cellphone usage and off campus behavior. Parents and students can access the handbook online;
•Set the short-term substitute pay for a licensed registered nurse at $22 per hour when the school nurse is out of the office;
•Entered into an agreement with Regional Resources to provide professional business management services for the Pierz School District effective Aug. 1 through July 31, 2015 at a cost of $99,615; and
•Signed a three-year agreement with Eklund Consulting to provide the district with workplace satisfaction assessments and developmental services in the amount of $8,500. Modeled after the business community, the company will collect data related to employee satisfaction to help the distinct improve its organizational success and growth.
The Pierz School Board’s next regular monthly meeting is Wednesday, Aug. 27, at 6 p.m. in the high school board room.