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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

School board takes official action on facilities plan

Ely taxpayers to be asked for $10 million in August

Keith Vandervort
Posted 2/12/20

ELY – School board members here finally took official action Monday night on a school facilities renovation project that has been in the discussion phase for years. Property owners in ISD 696 …

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School board takes official action on facilities plan

Ely taxpayers to be asked for $10 million in August

Posted

ELY – School board members here finally took official action Monday night on a school facilities renovation project that has been in the discussion phase for years. Property owners in ISD 696 will be asked in August to give their approval to a $10 million bond referendum for a capital construction plan likely to cost twice that much.
The board gave its unanimous blessing to the document directing the district superintendent to prepare a plan for final board action in May authorizing the referendum for the first Tuesday in August.
While the resolution also authorizes the use of $500,000 from the district’s general fund, $1.6 million in Long Term Facility Maintenance funds, and a $495,000 state grant, the remaining $7.5 million needed for the project is somewhat in question.
School board members are acting on faith that their plan of increased collaboration and cooperation with neighboring schools, coupled with ongoing similar programs, will convince the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation to step forward with the money to allow the Ely school district to complete the project.
Since the first of the year, school board members, district administration, Gary Cerkvenik, the district’s Costin Group lobbyist, and Scott Sosalla of the district’s architectural firm, ARI, have all worked together to put the wheels in motion for the renovation project.
The board, after years of discussion and false starts, finally seems settled on a plan designed to connect the Washington and Memorial buildings with a new structure that provides a secure entrance along with a host of other amenities, including an open-concept commons, an additional gymnasium, a new cafeteria and kitchen, media center and learning spaces, as well as technology upgrades, infrastructure improvements, new windows and doors, new roofs and HVAC, and classroom upgrades to the existing buildings.
IRRR staff provided feedback last month, according to ISD 696 Superintendent Erik Erie, on the cost structure of the proposal and re-emphasized the collaboration and cooperation expectations associated with funding, largely through the agency’s School Collaboration Fund.
The next big hurdle for the school board and district will be convincing the board of directors of the IRRR, along with state legislators at a meeting in St. Paul, tentatively scheduled for March 18, to go along with the project. “Ideally, we would like to get a delegation of students, parents, teachers, administration, school board members and community members to tell legislators why they should be supporting Ely and this project,” Erie said. “The more faces and stakeholders that we have there, the better. We have to be able to tell them that we are doing everything we can to make this happen.”
Erie said that ARI’s main contractor, Kraus-Anderson, planned to visit the school campus this week to get a general idea of the scope of the building project.
During discussion on the board’s resolution, chair Ray Marsnik noted that while heating and utility costs may remain about the same for the campus with the removal of the Industrial Arts buildings, custodial and maintenance costs could increase. “I’m wondering what our operational costs are going to be and that we get some numbers on that before our final decision,” Marsnik said. “I foresee that we will have to do more cleaning with an additional gym and commons area. Our custodial staff is pretty maxed out now. These are things that we have to know.”
Erie agreed that there are many unknowns at this point. “We are also talking about what additional furniture we will need. And with a schedule that emphasizes collaboration, will we need more teachers? That is also something we will have to look at.”

Other business
In other business the board,
Adopted a 2020-2021 school calendar that calls for 172 student contact days, with the first day of classes to begin on Tuesday, Sept. 8, the last day of school on June 4, 2021, and graduation on June 5.
Hired Abigail Maki for the para-professional position, effective Jan. 27, 2020.
Approved the following head coaches for the spring 2020 season: Frank Ivancich, head baseball coach, Tom McDonald, head softball coach, Jayne Dusich, head girls track coach, Wes Helms, head boys track coach, Rob Simonich, head golf coach, Donna Kari, head speech coach.
Approved membership for Ely High School to join the Iron Range Conference for boys and girls track, boys and girls cross country, baseball and volleyball.
Heard a presentation from elementary staff and teachers about the district’s language arts curriculum program.

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