ELY – Design work is ramping up on the ISD 696 school facility renovation project as the oversight committee considers work needed in the existing school buildings to tie in the new entrance …
ELY – Design work is ramping up on the ISD 696 school facility renovation project as the oversight committee considers work needed in the existing school buildings to tie in the new entrance and commons area structure and the rest of the campus.
Superintendent Erik Erie updated school board members this week on new schematic designs and project budget considerations with an eye toward releasing project bid documents early next year.
Nearly a dozen designers and construction officials from Kraus Anderson and Architectural Resources Inc. met with Ely school personnel last week to continue the design process.
“We are discussing transition plans and spaces for our current programs that are now in the Industrial Arts building and what that will look like next year,” Erie said. Soil borings and hazardous materials investigation are being completed, he added.
School board chair Ray Marsnik, school board member Tony Colarich, facilities manager Tim Leeson, and Erie comprise the facility committee for the project. Marsnik added that the 32,000-gallon propane tank located in the school’s front yard, could be relocated to the ice arena parking lot.
“That will be a big improvement,” he said.
Construction bids were scheduled to be ready in January, but now that deadline appears to have moved into February. “We are still in these schematic designs and things appear to be changing quite often,” Marsnik said. “I think we are going to have to set a limit on what we are going to be changing and let our (construction manager) go to work and come up with his plan. We’ve had about three months to look at this.”
Erie told the board that Kraus Anderson officials are looking at the date of Feb. 19 to begin the project bidding period. He added that the design of the new structure is complete, and designers are finalizing priorities in the existing Washington and Memorial buildings.
School board member Tom Omerza questioned who the ultimate authority is for the $20-million project in terms of final design, construction timelines and budget monitoring.
Erie said the construction manager is Kraus Anderson and they will be managing the entire project. A senior project manager from that firm will be overseeing the day-to-day operations of the project from start to finish. “They are in charge of the project,” he said, “and they make sure we are on budget and on schedule.”
The school district’s facilities committee will participate in regular construction meetings as the project progresses, Erie added.
Outgoing school board member James Pointer inquired about a final project approval by board members. Two new school board members will take office in January.
“We already voted on the plan,” Erie said. “The facilities committee will be reviewing the project going forward.”
Marsnik stressed that the board will be involved in reviewing and approving the final design plans prior to the release of bid documents. “We will all definitely see the entire plan and be able to comment on it before we go out for bids,” he said.
Safe Learning Plan
School board members approved two modifications to the district’s Safe Learning Plan, put in place to address public health measures and protocols in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our ‘Restart Blueprint’ revisions come as a result of our consultations with the St. Louis County Department of Health last week when they recommended changes to reflect new guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Education,” Erie said.
“We are making sure we look at county (positive COVID-19 test) data, and rather than just a greater St. Louis County reporting area, we are now part of a northern county reporting area,” he said.
The Ely Safe Learning Plan Advisory Council (ESLPAC)is now giving added weight to community and school group activities, in addition to senior living center data in recommending learning plan transitions.
“We are looking at more pieces,” Erie said. “It was very black and white before, and we found out that in the process there are more grey areas. We are kind of redefining what we look at.”
As per ESLPAC recommendations, the school district will remain in its current learning plan at least through the Thanksgiving break, barring any outbreaks in the school community. The active COVID-19 case count in the school remains at zero.
According to Erie, MDH advised that the school’s junior high volleyball team go into quarantine due to a player from North Woods school testing positive for COVID-19. “Parents have been notified,” he said.
An Early Dismissal proposal, as directed by an executive order from Gov. Tim Walz, calls for more preparation time for teachers as they balance in-person and distance-learning protocols for their classes. Ely students will be dismissed at noon on Wednesdays to accommodate the mandated increased teacher prep time.
Erie also reported that the district’s technology upgrades have been delayed. The district’s order for 500-plus Chromebooks for every student has been pushed back to at least mid-January because of supply and distribution delays.
In other business, the school board took the following action:
• Accepted the resignation of paraprofessional Evan Omerza.
• Hired Melissa Hart as cafeteria aide.
• Hired Thomas Just as a temporary paraprofessional.
• Approved the following coaches – Nate LaFond, assistant junior high Nordic skiing coach, Mark Sponholz, Sarah Sponholz, Brenda Olson, Travis Durkin, Heather Durkin, Barb Thompson, Will Helms, Jen Stouffer, Jeff Nelson, Carl Skustad, Molly Johnston, Mary Grayson, Heather Cavalier, Christian Cavalier, and Heidi Favet as volunteer assistant Nordic skiing coaches, and Scott Matthias as volunteer assistant hockey coach.
• Approved salary lane changes for the following teachers who recently earned master’s degrees – Autumn Boedeker, Cory Lassi, Kelly Noble and Megan Wognum.
• Rescheduled the December school board study session from Monday, Dec. 21 to Monday, Dec., 28 at 6 p.m.
• Virtual parent/teacher conferences will be held Tuesday, Nov. 17 and Thursday, Nov. 19.