VIRGINIA – Broadband may be basic in most homes throughout the nation but it continues to be hit and miss in the Northland. Could it be affecting our students? St. Louis County School Board …
VIRGINIA – Broadband may be basic in most homes throughout the nation but it continues to be hit and miss in the Northland. Could it be affecting our students? St. Louis County School Board members discussed a new broadband initiative at a meeting on Tuesday, July 23.
Joann Bassing approached the board requesting a donation toward a Blandin Foundation matching grant. Bassing, from the Tower area, represents the Blandin broadband initiative feasibility committee. Bassing said if the committee can raise $75,000, Blandin will match the funds. The committee would then use the $150,000 to study the best route to implement broadband services in the rural areas north of Virginia and around Lake Vermilion.
“The reason I’m here is if we ever want broadband in the areas of Tower-Soudan, Vermilion Lake, all the townships, Greenwood, Eagles Nest, we need to get this feasibility study done. It’s the first step and if we don’t get that done, we’re set back that many years, and it does affect your district,” Bassing said.
School board members Christine Taylor and Chris Koivisto voiced support for the project and said they would support a contribution. Bassing’s committee has already raised $60,000. The consensus of the school board was to donate, however, Superintendent Reggie Engebritson directed school business manager Kim Johnson to look into the legality of whether the board could make a donation the same day as a request. In a follow-up discussion since the meeting, Engebritson said the board learned it cannot donate taxpayer dollars to a private entity such as Bassing’s cause.
During the meeting, Bassing said the availability of broadband to rural students in the north levels the playing field between them and kids from larger cities where the service is readily available. She added that reliable internet access may help recruit young families to the area, increasing enrollment numbers, and boost the economy by affording people the opportunity to be employed through work from home jobs.
Staffing and curriculum
Continuing discussion on jobs, the board approved the hiring of 17 new teachers and three support staff. New teachers joining North Woods include: Kylee Uncini, preschool; Jennifer Burnett, special education; Nathan Anderson, science; Sara Twedten, language arts, and Daniel Reing, special education. Sara Niska and Jessica Hannine were hired as paraprofessionals at North Woods. New hire Brian Burton will be providing school transportation as a van driver and substitute bus driver.
“We need more bus drivers,” Koivisto said. “We should continue to promote that.”
The board recognized seven teachers for achieving tenure; special education teacher Ruth Porter from North Woods was among those mentioned.
The board also approved a English curriculum, which Koivisto described as having a standardized book list with a nice variety. Board member Dan Manick noted the list, “even includes print books.”
StudySync English Language Arts will be used for grades 6-8 with consideration given to the same curriculum for grades 9-12 next year. The program cost $75,000 for 500 students and is active for six years. Digital novels and materials are also included.
The 2019-2020 coaching staff roster was also announced. North Woods coaches are: John Jirik, head football; Jeff Chaulklin, assistant football; Joel Anderson, assistant football; and Dan Squires, assistant cross country. Squires will also work cooperatively with South Ridge.
Northeast Range coaches are: Michael Summers, head football; Barry Wolfe, assistant football; Jodi Reichensperger, head volleyball; Misty Roseth, assistant volleyball; Julianna Gerlovich, assistant volleyball; Lynn Gulbrandson, co-head girls swim, Cheri DeBeltz, co-head girls swim; Sue Pasmic, assistant girls swim; and Ellen Pierce, assistant cross country. Pierce is also working with South Ridge cooperatively.
Cherry coaches are: LeAnn Adkisson, head volleyball; Becky Greenly, assistant volleyball; Jason Marsh, head football; Gerald Barry, assistant football; and Chris Carpenter, assistant football.
South Ridge coaches are: Brad Olesiak, head volleyball; Mikayla Olesiak, assistant volleyball; Bridget Paulson, assistant volleyball; Brent Johnson, head football; Adam Janke, assistant football; Dan Nelson, assistant football; Jeremy Polson, head cross country; and Alissa Boyhtari, assistant cross country.
Engebritson updated the board on construction projects and renovations during the superintendent’s report. Engebritson said the Tower-Soudan School will receive $109,200 in grant funding to assist with school safety renovations and modifications. The school was selected by lottery. Improvements can now be planned and implemented at any time. The award period runs through Dec. 31, 2022.
Engebritson informed the board the South Ridge project will require an additional $140,000 to replace backfill material where the high school addition is being constructed.
“When that area was dug up for the new addition there was found to be branches and poor quality backfill tree stumps in the area next to the existing building,” Engebritson explained. “This wasn’t discovered when Braun Intertec did their boring samples last summer.”
The district is investigating why measures weren’t taken previously to ensure quality backfill was used to provide a foundation on which the already planned high school addition could be built.
In an add-on agenda item, the board authorized the superintendent to approve all change orders pertaining to expansion and renovation projects at the Cherry and South Ridge locations. A $50,000 per change order restriction is in place and the board must be apprised of all approvals in a timely manner. Recent change orders have ranged from $500 to $1,100.
A public hearing has been set for Tuesday, Aug. 27 at 5 p.m. in consideration and approval of a property tax abatement to use property taxes imposed by the district to fund parking lot reconstruction at various school sites. The estimated abatement would not exceed $2.75 million over 15 years.
In other action, the board: