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New Richmond School Board: Master plan 'does not meet the intent to serve all'

New Richmond School District

After going into closed session to discuss the old middle school site agreement following the completion of the rest of its agenda items for the Dec. 20 New Richmond Board of Education regular meeting, the board came back with very much the same response to the City of New Richmond's master plan for the site as they did at last month's meeting.

"The master plan presented to the Board of Education by the City of New Richmond in its current form does not meet the intent to serve all city and township residents of the District. The School District's vision for this property remains focused on a library and community space with appropriate parking to support this project. The District continues to raze the structure as planned," said the board in a statement supplied by District Administrator Patrick Olson Wednesday, Dec. 21.

In an email response to questions supplied by the News, Olson wanted to clarify that, based on the Old Middle School Agreement, the only expectation for December was that the City of New Richmond had to deliver the proposed master plan, and there is no timeline for approval or denial of the plan.

"The School District of New Richmond will remain open to a plan that serves all city and township residents of the District," Olson said. "This plan should focus on a library and community space with appropriate parking to support this structure."

According to the demolition schedule given to the district by Eckert Wrecking, the company the board contracted to complete the razing of the old middle school and the removal of regulated materials — such as light bulbs, freon, mercy switches and elevator oil — was scheduled to be completed by Friday, Dec. 23. The next step, which will take place from Jan. 2-Feb. 24, is the interior demolition. Interior demolition includes removing piping, wiring, ceiling tiles, insulation, windows and other debris from the building.

After the interior demolition is completed, the company will then start the razing of the buildings that make up the old middle school complex. That process is scheduled to start Feb. 27 and go until March 10. The project is estimated to be completed in 21 weeks, with the schedule to change depending on weather. Currently, the schedule says the project will be completed — with top soil, mulch and seed — by May 12.

Fair Labor Standard Act

One of the more contested topics at the Dec. 20 board meeting was the rescinding of the pay increase for Tiger Pack supervisor Rachel Twedten to keep her exempt from the new Fair Labor Standards Act overtime rules.

According to Olson, just days after the last board meeting where the board approved raising Twedten's salary to $47,476 to keep her exempt from overtime rules according to the new FLSA, the FLSA was halted by an injunction. Since Twedten's salary hadn't been adjusted yet for the pay increase, Olson and director of fiscal and building operations Brian Johnston put a hold on the pay raise in order to take the issue back to the school board in order to get their take on the injunction. Olson said the board could leave things as they were, table the subject or repeal it.

The board spent nearly 10 minutes discussing the topic and eventually decided to take the item to a vote, with Skoglund making a motion to rescind the pay raise, which was seconded by Dr. Neal Melby.

"I don't want to take this away from her once she has it, and from what I'm hearing, it is one of his top focuses to get rid of the new overtime rules," said board member Chris Skoglund. "However, there are also a lot of other staff that didn't fall under this, so that is why I've struggled with what we do with this decision. She also did get an increase last year, so I don't think we can do this now. So, I'm going to make a motion to rescind the raise."

With the motion up for vote, the board did a roll call with board president Rick Hinz, Greg Gartner, Skoglund and Melby voting yes and Paula Kolbeck and Marilyn Duerst voting no.

Other business

— The school board approved the purchase of 75 Chromebooks for the middle school for a total price of $18,750 from SHI. The 75 Chromebooks will fill out the six floating computer carts at the middle school and allow each of the houses to have their own designated computer cart, which houses enough computers for a whole class of students.

— The board approved the sale of the student built house from last year's class. The offer came from Haffner Construction in the amount of $25,000. Haffner also bought the student built house from the 2014-15 school year.

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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