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St. James Plaindealer - St. James, MN
  • SJ Board takes first step to move sixth grade to Northside

  • Sixth grade classes are currently held at the High School. One of the reasons for considering this move was if the sixth grade students were at Northside, then they could benefit from the staff and other resources in the federally funded School Improvement Grant (SIG) Northside received at the start of the school year.
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  •     The St. James School Board approved a request for proposal (RFP) to determine the cost of acquiring a module that would have four mobile classrooms. This module would be placed on the east side of Northside Elementary and would be utilized to house the sixth grade students.
        Sixth grade classes are currently held at the High School.  One of the reasons for considering  this move was if the sixth grade students were at Northside, then they could benefit from the staff and other resources in the federally funded School Improvement Grant (SIG) Northside received at the start of the school year.
        To avoid misuse of grant dollars, the state and the federal government mandates that the grant money can only be spent at the school that was designated a priority school.  
        The RFP is the first step of a process that could lead to the portable classrooms at Northside.
        At the Board meeting Superintendent Becky Cselovszki said a company involved in this business gave her a ‘ballpark’ estimate of $175,000. This estimate included some of the utilities hooked up, but not all of them. It is probable the competitive bidding process would have the price come in lower than the ballpark estimate.    
        In an email exchange with this reporter the Superintendent explained the financing, “The proposal will be a 4-5 year financing plan with a buy back option included.              “The first year payment and upgrades will be paid with a "rebate" of operating capital funds which are recently available due to the sale of the original Riverbend  building in New Ulm.  
        “The remainder of the payments will be made with existing operating or annual operating capital funds generated by our district.  These funds can only be used for building improvements, so they are restricted dollars.”
        Cselovszki explained the reasoning behind seeking an RFP, “The original request to look at portables came from an identified space need at Northside due to the additional staff and programming with the SIG.  
        “As we looked at the need of two additional classrooms, the efficiency and cost difference of 2 versus 4+ classrooms was discussed.  That concept brought about the discussion of opportunities for our 6th grade students and staff, if they were, are part of Northside.”
        Many parents of students and community members had questions about the possibility of moving sixth grade to Northside.
        Concerns were expressed about what this would do to the lunch hour.  An additional grade would extend the lunch hour.  Some parents said their children were already having a hard time finishing a lunch in their designated time.
    Page 2 of 3 -     There was additional concern expressed about what having additional lunch time and an additional grade would mean for classes like band which also uses the lunch room.  
        While many people were questioning the need for this move or what they perceived as the possible problems of such a move, Board Member Jennie Firchau said that at this time the portable classroom was another idea and that nothing was set in stone.  
        In the community connection time that preceeded the Board meeting, Northside Principal Karla Beck gave a detailed presentation on how the school was making progress and setting goals  improving academic scores. She also detailed how the administration and staff was working to comply with all of the criteria of the SIG program.
        Beck also detailed the school improvement plan requirement and how the school was going to begin working on applying for the SIG money for next year. Once approved for the SIG this year, the school was almost guaranteed to get the money for next year, but the school does have to go through an application process.     
        After the Community Connection, the formal Board meeting was called to order and all members were present except Mark Anderson.
        The Board approved the payment of the monthly bills totaling $1,442,865.72 and gifts and bequests given to the District in the amount of $920.10.
        The Board also approved a reconfiguration of the high school’s wrestling room. With this approval the wrestling room will get bigger. There will be more mat space.
        This will be accomplished by taking out the locker room facilities and plumbing in the current configuration. The Saints wrestling community is going to fundraise for a majority of the cost.  
        The Board approved five year leaves of absence for teachers Mark Beltz and Linda Dlugiewicz. These leaves will begin at the start of the next school year.
        The Board approved the contracts for the spring coaches, it approved a sick leave donation grant for the custodial group and a lease agreement with the County for storage and parking space at Armstrong.
        The Board approved a couple of other RFPs for audit services and a security system.
        The Board also approved changes in the graduation requirements of high  school students. The primary change means students will be taking more science classes to meet their graduation requirements.
        The Superintendent talked about the Federal Government sequester and how that might impact the school district.  She said some parts of the District’s budget would face cuts from the sequester.  
    Page 3 of 3 -      Cselovszki explained, “The sequester will impact our title I, II, and III funding.  All will be reduced by 5-8%.  These programs include our title program at Northside, which right now works side by side with the SIG, and our English Language Learner consortia program which focuses on staff development in this area and also our district support staff in ELL.  
        “The district does have a carry over or a reserve in these funds, so we will dip into the reserve and not look at reduction, however that is a one time fix.
        “The sequester also impacts federal special education reimbursement and that is a much larger issue for our district.  A 5-8% reduction of our federal special ed dollars will result in the general education pot having to pick up the difference as these are still legal mandates the district must maintain regardless of the funding.”

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