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District 518 board differs on paving parking lot

WORTHINGTON -- Discussion about the paving of a baseball field parking lot led to a divided vote among ISD 518 board members during their Tuesday evening meeting.

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WORTHINGTON - Discussion about the paving of a baseball field parking lot led to a divided vote among ISD 518 board members during their Tuesday evening meeting.

Previously authorized by the board, the parking lot was included in a list of capital outlay requests highlighted by Superintendent John Landgaard during the meeting.

Board member Mike Harberts said he would approve the capital outlay requests with the exception of the $350,000 expense to pave the parking lot.

“I believe spending $350,000 on our space needs is more important,” Harberts said.

Fellow board member Adam Blume agreed.

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“Is it really that big of a deal when we’ve got a bigger problem we’re facing because of school space?” Blume asked. He said spending that much money on a parking lot is part of the reason the district has had trouble getting voters to approve a referendum, and suggested they add gravel instead.

Lori Dudley said the board had already approved going out for bids for the baseball parking lot last year, and Dave Skog, director of business management, said it got too late last fall to seek bids on the project.

“It’s been on the action plan at least four years,” added Landgaard, noting that a gravel lot isn’t ADA compliant. For people with disabilities, getting from the parking lot to the ADA-compliant sidewalks can be difficult.

That said, Landgaard told the board it was their decision.

Linden Olson then moved to amend the motion by stating the paving of the parking lot be included. Ultimately, the amended motion passed on a 5-2 vote with Harberts and Blume each voting in opposition.

The parking lot issue is likely to appear before the board again, as members will need to take action on bids submitted for each of the capital outlay items.

First e-learning day a success Worthington Middle School teachers Micaela Massey (computer education) and Tori Baumgartner (fifth grade) addressed the board with a report on the district’s first e-learning day last week.

Initially, the district planned to conduct its first e-learning day next week, but a storm predicted to bring rain, sleet and snow to the area last week forced the district to cancel classes and, instead, have students complete their work online.

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“It went fairly well, even though it was an unplanned (digital day),” said Massey. She told board members that middle school teachers spent half of their last in-service training learning how to do lesson plans and prepare for e-learning days.

“Most of our teachers were prepared,” Massey said. The greatest issue was in making sure students did their work.

In one of her classes, Massey said she had seven of 31 students who weren’t able to complete their work online during the snow day. Two students didn’t have working wifi, some didn’t have internet access in the home and some just didn’t do their assignments.

“In fifth grade, we were about 80 percent (of work completed),” shared Baumgartner. “Students had to message us through Schoology if they had questions. We were very pleased.”

She said students also liked the e-learning day, saying they could do some homework, take a break to play videogames and then return to their homework.

One teacher reported having communications with students through Schoology before 7 a.m. on the snow day, to as late as 10:15 p.m.

Those students who didn’t have internet access were allowed to make up their assignments within the next few days.

WMS Principal Jeff Luke said he would like to poll students to find out how many have access to wifi and can do e-learning at home on their school-issued iPad, and how many cannot.

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“I think this whole thing is a great work in progress,” said Board Chairman Brad Schaffer.

Enrollment continues to climb Landgaard updated board members on student enrollment, noting there are now 1,250 students in Prairie Elementary, 990 at WMS and 996 at WHS.

There are 327 students in the ninth grade, which has increased by 30 to 40 students since the start of the school year. Landgaard said about a dozen new students have enrolled in the district in just the last couple of weeks.

The anticipation is that there will be 3,362 students in the district next year, with the potential for another 25 kindergarteners.

“We will be pushing that 3,400 mark pretty quick,” Landgaard said. “Enrollment isn’t slowing down at all.”

With Kindergarten Round-Up on Monday, 205 students have already been registered for the 2019-2020 school year. Registrations are out for another 90 students, and it is anticipated that about half of those will be enrolling in the district.

Landgaard said the numbers indicate the district may need to hire another kindergarten teacher for next year.

Board member Stephen Schnieder asked where the teacher would be placed, as all of the classrooms are filled. Prairie Elementary Principal Heidi Meyer said there was a reduction of a kindergarten classroom last year, which allowed special education to use the classroom. She said that room would need to be converted back into a kindergarten classroom. As for the special education teachers, Meyer said some of the computers in the school library could be displaced to make some space for special education.

Board members authorized the hiring of an additional kindergarten teacher, if needed, as well as other positions as requested.

In other business, the board:

  • Approved the track project at the middle school at a cost not to exceed $400,000. The eight-lane, all-weather track will be bid through the service cooperative.
  • Authorized the purchase of a new dishwasher for Prairie Elementary at a cost of $54,000. The dishwasher dates back to when the building was built and has had some issues. The cost will be paid through the district’s lunch fund. It was noted that new dishwashers will likely be needed for the middle and high school buildings within the next five years.
  • Approved an approximately $22,000 change order to install a fume hood in the science classroom at the new Area Learning Center.
  • Approved a request from Melissa Jensen to apply for National Board Certification. The district currently has one certified, and four are in the process of becoming certified.
  • Approved a request for John Hubbard to attend the International Technology and Engineering Education Association conference later this month in Kansas City, Mo.
  • Approved an amended lease agreement with Nobles County for use of the Armory Business Center space for the district’s gymnastics program. The lease is being extended from June 30 to Aug. 15.
  • Tabled discussion on the possibility of conducting a public information survey within the district after Landgaard presented costs ranging from $10,000 to $15,000. Schaffer said information is always good to gather, but he questioned what the district would want to know after already conducting numerous public meetings.
  • Approved Adam Koller and Aunna Groenewold as student school board representati
Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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