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Electorate approves resolution to purchase bank building

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The vote was nearly unanimous Monday night with one vote against, one abstention and the overwhelming majority of 20-plus residents voting in support of a resolution authorizing the St. Croix Central School District Board of Education to purchase the property located at 915 Davis St. in Hammond, formerly the Associated Bank Building. The resolution permits the board to spend up to $175,000 for the purchase. That works out to roughly $22 per square foot to provide 7,800 square feet of relief to a crowded middle school.

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“There is no way that the current operational budget can afford to build any educational space. That is what we have referendums for. We couldn’t build half of this space for $175,000,” District Clerk Jeff Redmon explained, noting that new classrooms can cost upwards of $200,000 each.

Acting chairperson Paulette Anderson conducted the special meeting and suggested that plans for the building might still include a banking function in the form of a drive up teller.

“Both River Falls and Hudson have branches in their schools. They have one staff member from the bank and then they use students to help with staffing. This town really needs a bank,” Anderson said.  

In addition to the potential for a bank program, it is expected that the building will house the district offices and boardroom, virtual school quarters, community education and alternative education. Estimated costs to make the space ready for district operations range from $100,000 to $365,000 depending on what options are incorporated. Plans for how to use the space vacated by the district office at the middle school have yet to be decided but likely will include some classroom considerations.

One resident questioned the timing of the purchase in light of the long-term plan currently being created by the Facilities Task Force (FTF) and noted $6,000 of tax revenue would be lost annually to the community.

District Superintendent Tim Widiker explained that the purchase was a good fit with FTF planning and would provide immediate assistance to the district at an affordable price. He said any plans resulting from the FTF would take at least a year or two be be realized.

Following the vote, the School Board convened its regularly scheduled monthly meeting.

“Did anyone receive a call today?” Widiker asked in reference to the commencement of a three-week phone survey being commissioned by the FTF. The survey will be used to solicit residents’ input on potential plans to add to district facilities and to measure their corresponding tax tolerance. The FTF’s next meeting is scheduled for May 27 at the Elementary School Library Media Center starting at 6 p.m.

The board approved raising free and reduced meal program fees for breakfast by 5 cents and lunch by 10 cents, citing changes in the federal reimbursement program. The board also approved the proposed 2014-15 student fees including adding $25 to the Drivers Education Fee, bringing it to $300, to account for increased gas and vehicle rental prices.

The board approved a revised calendar for the 2014-15 school year that adds five minutes to the end of the day at all three buildings and replaces late start dates with seven professional development days (PDD) for teachers and staff. Director John Hueg questioned whether having 70 paras off along with all of the students for those seven days would be a worthy trade off.

“How do I know as a board member that I’m getting maximum value? How do I see a more  effective teacher for those other 173 days? To me, it feels like if those seven days are not well planned, we might as well have students in the classrooms,” Hueg said. “I’m all for that investment. But if I’m making that swap, four percent of your teaching days matters. Let’s really make sure it counts,” Hueg said.

Redmon asked whether it might be smart to include the paras for at least some of those PDDs so they could put the time toward completing certifications and furthering their own education as well.

“Good teacher evaluations make teachers that much more effective. The next step is to plan our full year calendar for professional development so we know exactly what we will be working on every day. It is our responsibility to make those days meaningful and effective. We know that,” Widiker said.

Dean of Students Jeremy Kerg reported on the successful inaugural season of the high school’s sporting clays team and began the process of convincing the board to allow student shooters to earn varsity letters for their participation. The team is sending six students to compete in the first statewide tournament in mid-June. He also notified the board that FFA advisor Bill Emery is preparing to make his case for FFA students to be able to earn varsity letters.

Other business

  •  The board approved the short-term borrowing of up to $600,000 to cover payroll and other cash flow expenses from June 4 to June 16 when the district would receive its state aid payment.
  •  The board approved a new contract with Children’s Therapy Center at a rate of $55 per hour for physical therapy services for students for the 2014-15 school year.
  •  The board elected Howard Kruschke as president, Kirk Lyksett as vice president, Jeff Redmon as clerk and Scott DeGross as treasurer.
  •  The board approved an Eagle Scout project by Jason Pribnow to build a handicap accessible swing at the elementary school.

The next meeting of the St. Croix Central School District Board of Education Is scheduled for Monday, June 23, starting at 7 p.m at the middle school library.   

    

   

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Sarah Young
Sarah Young joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News. She covers primarily Hammond, Roberts and Somerset. Previously she free-lanced for the River Falls Journal, Hudson Star-Observer, RiverTown special publications and the Superior Catholic Herald. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. Before working at the New Richmond News, she was an assistant manager at Philander's Grill & Bar in Prescott. She lives in Prescott with her husband Mike and daughter Carolina.  
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