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School board discusses Community Commons

At its May 19 school board meeting, the New Richmond School District Board of Education discussed at length a pair of new developments for the Community Commons.

The first of those developments was the possibility of the City of New Richmond being interested in using the Commons site as the location for a new library on the condition that the 1926 portion of the building be razed to allow for the new building to be built from the ground up.

“One of the thoughts that has come up lately is would the library be willing to come here if the 1926 portion was taken down?” said District Administrator Jeff Moberg. “Would that give them enough green space, because it felt like the rub of them coming here was that they didn’t want to be in the portion of the building with the three stories and that they had concerns about the building, not about the site itself.”

One of the positives of this new option, according to Moberg, is that it would reduce the Commons’ footprint and make the building more manageable for the Commons partners to support while also keeping the Commons concept going as well. The main drawback would be that the Commons loses the 1926 portion, which could limit the future use of the building.

The second development Moberg brought to the board was the chance for an application to be written for a Community Development Block Grant that would match the money invested into the Commons site, for a project such as razing the 1926 portion, up to $500,000. The grant is federal money which is administered by the states. The grant focuses on giving support to “limited clientele” groups such as the seniors, the food shelf and Head Start, all of which are groups that currently call the Community Commons home.

“I feel like this grant was written just for the type of project we are engaged in at the Commons,” Moberg said. “The programs we have down there are very good fits for this grant. If our half million to raze that 1926 portion was considered that match then we would have a million dollars toward the renovation of the Commons. If we get this grant things would start to move forward at the Commons a little differently than it has been.”

The deadline for the grant application is June 2, and it requires a public hearing, which the city and the school board have already scheduled for 7 p.m. May 29, at the New Richmond Civic Center. To have the grant request written would cost the school district $3,000 and if they get the grant it would cost another $3,000.

One contingency of the grant is that the school board can’t apply for it themselves, which means the City of New Richmond would have to apply for the grant and then pass the money through to the school board for its projects, such as renovating the Commons building. Another obstacle in the path of getting the grant is having the Commons be declared a blighted building.

“That sounds like a really bad thing, but really blighted can be as simple as a lack of parking, non-economic use and issues with the HVAC,” Moberg said. “There will have to be a resolution to declare the building blighted, but I want to be clear that their definition is really lower than what we have in our mind for a blighted building.”

Moberg also reported that the second boiler at the Commons went down some time last week and needed to be repaired. The first of the two boilers also needed repairs and parts replaced last month.

Among the other items on the May 19 agenda was the approval of a new AP Physics II course at the high school. The course would last for a full school year and it is expected that around 15 students would take the course next year. Prerequisites for the AP course would require a student to have taken either the first year of Physics or Advanced Placement Calculus since both of those courses have mechanics problems in them. The course was approved by the school board.

Along with approving the new course, the school board also approved the purchase of several new textbooks for multiple courses/subjects totaling $64,189.51.

Another topic discussed was the approval of the 2014-15 open enrollment applications. A total of 69 students applied for incoming open enrollment in the New Richmond School District, while another 41 students filled out outgoing open enrollment applications. The board approved the applications with a few exceptions.

head varsity girls basketball coach, the hiring of a first-, fifth- and eighth-grade teacher at Paperjack and Starr elementaries and the middle school respectively. 

— The board approved donations of $800 from Bosch ($300 for the NRHS Science Olympiad team and $500 for Service Learning Day), as well as a donation to the NR FFA Chapter for $500 from the Robert Heebink Family. 

— The board approved a base wage increase for teaching staff of $759 for the 2014-15 school year, and also approved a $1,200 supplemental increase for qualifying members of the teaching group. 

— The school board also approved the retirement of Mary Jensen, fourth-grade teacher at Starr Elementary. 

— The school board formally recognized the U.S. News & World Report No. 13 ranking as well as receiving the Advanced Placement Pacesetter School Award. 

— The school board approved an increase in the hot lunch prices for 2014-15 school year to meet the requirements of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on June 16.

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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