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Board approves playground, school calendars

At its March 17 meeting the New Richmond School District Board of Education voted to move forward with a natural playground partnership with the City of New Richmond, and it approved the school year calendars for the next two years.

During the meeting, District Administrator Jeff Moberg brought a tentative plan to the board about joining with the City of New Richmond to create a natural playground using some of the green space near one of the district’s three elementary schools, in this case, Paperjack Elementary. The project would be part of the city’s Community Vitality Initiative.

“I was approached by the city in terms of partnering with them on a natural playground on some of the space behind Paperjack Elementary,” Moberg stated. “We would model our playground after the one in Glenwood City, where they have already built their natural playground. The one there is about two acres and we have a good amount of space behind Paperjack to build something similar. I would recommend we do it.”

A natural playground is an area where kids can play with natural elements such as sand, water, wood and living plants. One of the up sides of the project is that it will only cost the district hundreds of dollars to build rather than thousands like a normal playground might.

“They literally took the pieces they cut down and turned them into the things that kids like to play with in these natural areas,” Moberg said. “It is very low impact and very low cost. The space is back there and available.”

The area in question is east of the baseball field and north of the school, according to Moberg. Moberg and the city had hoped they would be able to have things ready to go by May, but with snow still on the ground the area might not be dry enough to start working on by that time.

The board approved the motion to support partnering with the city to use land at Paperjack Elementary for a natural playground by a 4-1 vote.

School calendars

The board also discussed the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school calendars at the Monday meeting. Moberg discussed the changes that he had made to the calendar since the last time the board had seen it, such as moving the two-day spring break in March 2015 back a week to accommodate the playoff basketball games that will be hosted at the high school next year. A full spring break will be taken in the spring of 2016.

“School calendars are always things that invite a lot of participation and comment from everyone,” Moberg said. “We went through and looked at some drafts with the idea of approving two this year and then one every year after this so that we are always one year ahead to give people time to plan.”

Another change to the calendar was to the parent teacher conferences, which have traditionally been held during the day. The new calendar would switch those daytime conferences to nighttime conferences, which Moberg said are more well attended and much easier for parents to make it to and plan around.

The board unanimously approved the two calendars as presented.

Community Commons

Moberg also gave the school board an update on the proceedings with the Community Commons and what movement, or lack there of, was going on with the possibility of a new community library moving into the Commons. Board President Richard Hinz asked Moberg if he could go to the city and find out what its intentions were with the Community Commons and whether the city was looking at the building as a whole or just at the land the Commons sits on.
“It seems like there was a lot of negativity around the 1926 portion of the building, so I was wondering if we couldn’t ask the city for a clarification on their intentions,” Hinz said. “Are they ruling out the building or are they ruling out the location? Where is their level of interest? Is it with the site or the building? If they could give us a better idea as to their focus that would help us understand things better.”

Other business:

-- The school board approved the hiring of an additional first-grade teacher at Paperjack Elementary. The school currently has three sections of 22 kindergarten students, which means the school will need to remain at three sections in first grade next year.

-- Representatives from the middle school, including Principal Douglas Hatch, presented a variety of school programs, groups and activities, such as reading programs Code X, Read 180, System 44, the St. Croix County Drug Prevention calendar, Science Olympiad and the Greenhouse Club.

-- The board approved a set of Youth Option classes for New Richmond High School students, totaling $6,275.

-- The board approved the 2013-14 Board Goals, which it had been working on updating for several months.

-- The board set 6 p.m., Monday, April 7, as the day for the next board work session.

-- The board approved the 2014-15 CESA 11 Shared Service Contract to renew the services it currently uses.

The school board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on April 21.

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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