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School board hard at work in summer

District 518 school board members (far left) Linden Olson, Mark Shepherd (second from right) and Scott Rosenberg (far right) participate in a discussion with Superintendent John Landgaard (second from left) during Tuesday’s board meeting. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON – School’s out for the summer, but District 518’s school board members — and many staff — are still hard at work, as evidenced by the Board of Education’s Tuesday night meeting in the Worthington High School (WHS) media center.

With most attendees attired in relaxed short-sleeved shirts rather than button-downs and ties, the meeting’s business was largely routine, though the decisions being made will have far-reaching impact on District 518 students and facilities.

Superintendent John Landgaard received the go-ahead to accept the bid from KUE Contractors Inc. of Watkins for a new bus garage off Stower Drive, despite an unexpected cost increase due to the necessity of more square footage than initially expected to accommodate adequate parking space and structural beams.

“There were some other increased costs due to mechanical, plumbing, heating and electrical materials,” explained Landgaard, noting he’d seen prices for such items going up in the “bidding world” recently.

KUE indicated it could complete the project by the end of November, while the second bidder, Johnson Builders and Realtors of Worthington, estimated the project’s completion by late January.

MLA Architects of St. Paul received a unanimous nod from all seven board members as the firm of choice for the new intermediate school, addition to WHS and other upcoming building facilities projects.

“They did the recent addition and renovation at Worthington Middle School, and while we received three excellent proposals, MLA’s fit our district a little better,” said Landgaard.

Some discussion surrounded the ratification of the Accuplacer test as an alternative route to a high school diploma for students who fail to pass the existing Minnesota Graduation Standard tests in reading, writing and math after repeated efforts.

“This is due to a legislative change,” said Landgaard. “Now, students may be allowed to take one of three tests — the Accuplacer, a military test or the ACT — to receive a diploma.

“We have 20 to 26 students who may need to do this; it’s not a cream puff test.”

Board chair Linden Olson suggested it would help improve the district’s overall graduation rate.

Also approved was the resolution to issue school building bonds in the fall, and the necessary election to accompany that decision, as well as a single polling place — WHS — for all district voters in a non-statewide election year.

“I know this is a hardship for those in outlying areas, but the cost and effort to make multiple polling sites available doesn’t make sense and can be confusing,” commented Olson.

“Will absentee ballots be available?” asked Brad Shaffer.

“Yes,” assured Landgaard, “though they have to be received at least one day prior to the election.”

Board director Steve Schnieder cautioned that, with only one polling place, care should be taken to ensure enough election judges and voting machines are on hand to prevent long lines.

“We will need to decide on the amount for the operating levy at next month’s meeting,” said Landgaard, although shifting state education regulations and mandates have made determining that figure somewhat complicated, as several board members observed.

Trojan Field will soon benefit from a new, portable irrigation system that has 500 feet of hose and can be moved to the practice field.

“The current irrigation system is stationary and doesn’t have enough reach,” related Dave Skog, director of management services for District 518. “This one has a timer and will result in less labor costs, plus it can be operated outside the heat of the day so less water will evaporate,” he reported of the system, which will cost approximately $10,400.

Skog also shared that District 518’s end-of-fiscal year numbers look positive, with nearly 100 percent of expected revenues having been received as of June 30 while expenditures were at about 96.3 percent of the budget.

“We ended the year in good shape,” said Skog.

An email Landgaard received at 4 p.m. Tuesday from the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement gave word that District 518 was accredited — but under advisement, due to two items about which the commission requested further information.

“One of those was related to policies, and a piece of that change has already been accomplished to meet their recommendation,” Landgaard said.

Landgaard also provided an update on a potential cooperative agreement for Worthington girls’ hockey to share a team with Windom.

“The hockey association gave us the names of nine girls who played last year, as well as six additional girls who have shown interest — all of whom have some skating ability, although not necessarily hockey experience,” Landgaard reported.

“It’s starting to look like they might have enough numbers, but you’ll need to make a decision on this next month.”

The girls’ hockey cooperative question will be addressed again at the upcoming District 518 Instructional Committee meeting.

Olson recognized WHS rising junior Adyiam Kimbrough for her selection as one of 10 Minnesota youths named a Red Wagon Award winner by Minnesota’s Lieutenant Governor, and also took the liberty of acknowledging the birthdays this week of fellow school board members Schnieder and Lori Dudley.

District 518 2013-14 activity calendars are now available at the district’s administrative and school offices.

The next regular meeting of the District 518 board is scheduled to take place in the WHS media center at 5:15 p.m. Aug. 20 — the same week school will commence for all District 518 students.

For more information about recent proceedings of the District 518 board of directors, visit