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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Ely School Board considers preserving the past for future students

Rachel Brophy
Posted 11/30/22

ELY – The future of a series a historic murals was a question before the school board here on Monday night. Ely Winton Historical Society (EWHS) president Pam Turnbull addressed the status of …

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Ely School Board considers preserving the past for future students


ELY – The future of a series a historic murals was a question before the school board here on Monday night. Ely Winton Historical Society (EWHS) president Pam Turnbull addressed the status of the David Tice Workman murals, which were created in the high school library between 1926 and 1935 and have been displayed in various locations in Ely ever since.
Turnbull cited an Oct. 16 email from Margaret Sweet, which informed Turnbull that the murals had been stacked backstage in the auditorium during the school construction, and that raised the question of what to do with them now.
Turnbull outlined the history of the murals, noting that funding for their creation had come from contributions of graduating classes back nearly a century ago. The murals were prominent within the school library until the 1970s. In 1975, the high school library was to be converted to the media center and the murals were going to be destroyed.
Turnbull said Ely resident, Mary Ellen Levander heard about the possible fate of the paintings and was given permission by the school board to save them. With help she removed the murals from the wall, and they were stored in the art department for a few years until EWHS received a grant from the Minnesota Historical Society to have the canvasses stretched and framed. The murals were donated to EWHS and displayed throughout the community as per the agreement. In 2013, the school board proposed that all twelve of the murals be hung together outside the auditorium, and that they would move, install, and insure them at their own expense. Under the agreement, said Turnbull, if the murals were ever moved permanently, they’d be returned to EWHS.
Turnbull said she’d been in communication with Superintendent John Klarich and Building Facilities Director Tim Leeson regarding insurance and appraisals for the pieces, which have since been moved to a more secure location on campus.
“Now, we’re in a bit of a quandary. How do we proceed?” she asked.
Turnbull said there are many questions now, including whether the murals will be rehung and where, what is their condition, is an appraisal needed, and how will the pieces be insured. “Historically, they’re priceless,” she said. “Because they were in the school originally, and the school really has a big enough space, I hope that we’ll be able to go forward on this.”
Next, the board heard from Kraus Anderson Senior Project Manager Todd Erickson with an update on unfunded expenditures.
“We’re estimating that we’re over on contingency,” he said. The negative balance of $95,240 in the school’s contingency fund when added to the existing unfunded expenditure of $503,064 due to ledge rock blasting and removal leaves ISD 696 in need of $598,303.
Erickson’s report left some on the board quizzical. Board member Tony Colarich asked about the recent $1.5 million grant from St. Louis County, which was supposed to help cover some of the cost overruns of Ely’s facilities project.
But Klarich indicated that those funds were earmarked for other parts of the project, not the cost overruns due to the additional rock blasting. Klarich wasn’t specific about where the district would find the funds to bridge the gap, but the board quickly moved on to other topics.
Erickson also updated the board on the status of unfinished locker rooms.
“We haven’t punch-listed that yet because they’re not done,” he said.
According to Erickson, tiling is still being finished up in the boy’s locker room, which should be done on or about Dec. 5. After that the floor needs to be levelled, and fixtures are scheduled to go in Dec. 19. He said that lockers are currently onsite, but “I’ve been told by the locker install team that the best they can do right now is January 9-13.”
The board, along with Athletic Director Tom Coombe, discussed how this would impact the upcoming basketball season and eight-team tournament scheduled for the end of December. Erickson told the board that issues with state approval for showers and crew availability contributed to the later-than-anticipated finish of locker rooms. He said a temporary certificate of occupancy can be obtained to be able to use locker rooms prior to locker installation.
In other business the board:
• Adopted a resolution authorizing issuance of certificates of election and directing the district clerk to perform other election-related duties.
• Hired Kali Moro for a paraprofessional position effective Nov. 17.
• Hired Amy Ostazeski for a paraprofessional position effective Dec. 1.
• Approved request by Ely Chix with Stix to display a memorial jersey case in the Ely Ice Arena honoring former teammate Joni Dahl, who was killed recently by a drunk driver in Embarrass.
The next regular meeting of the board will be the Truth in Taxation meeting held Monday, Dec. 12 at 6 p.m.


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