At Monday's meeting, the St. James school board heard estimates and plans for going forward with new tennis courts, the MSHSL and St. James High School handbooks and code of conduct, as well as some budgeting concerns.

Justin Friesen of Larson Construction outlined two separate options for the new tennis courts.

The first option is an asphalt pavement plan, which would put the courts back the way they are constructed, with an additional layer of sand and drain tile below the sand to allow for any moisture that in that sand section to drain out.

That layer of sand and drain tile would prevent the freeze-thaw cycle that is causing the current courts to shift and crack.

"That would give you about a 20-25 year life on those courts," said Friesen. "That's typically what's been done."

The second plan Friesen presented was a post tension concrete slab.

"The intent is that it moves with the traffic. When things freeze and thaw through those cycles, the courts allowed to move as one entire system and doesn't crack. It's a little bit more of an expensive system, but what it allows us to do not excavate five feet down."

Friesen did note that excavating would still have to be done to lay down drain tile to alleviate the groundwater.

The pavement section would be five inches of concrete over six inches of sand. Under that would be the post tension slab.

Friesen added that the post tension slab was recently done in Hutchinson to repair their courts. 

The longevity for the post tension slab is 50 years. Activities Director Les Zellmann said that Worthington has this system under their courts and just resurfaced their courts for the first time in the about ten years they have had the new system, whereas color coating usually takes place every five years.

The concrete on top would still crack over time, but the tension rods below would pull those cracks tighter together.

Questions over the cause of the lack of drainage were proposed, as well as the material currently underneath the courts and the original construction of the courts.

The geotechnical reports for under the courts said the material was "a fill material of a sandy, lean clay", but was still vulnerable to frost.

Construction for the project is planned to start in May and conclude in Mid-August. Bids would be accepted prior to the regular April meeting.

Nielsen estimated that the cost for either of the options would be around 700K-800K, with additional cost for new light poles around the courts upwards of around 40K.

Gary Anderson, the Technology Coordinator, discussed the 1:1 initiative for new Chromebooks at the high school. The high school currently projects about 525 Chromebooks to be used for each student.

The Chromebooks were bought brand new in 2017 are on a five-year cycle, meaning after 2022, the Chromebooks would "not be able to do what you need them to do."

The annual cost per device is $51.63.

"To me, that is a fantastic bang for your computing buck," said Anderson, noting that the Chromebooks are cheaper than a traditional Mac, Lenovo, Dell, or iPad. 

Following Anderson, a discussion over the high school's and MSHSL's handbooks and codes of conduct took place, with chair Richard Spitzner outlining each of the codes of responsibility regarding all of the penalties.

Superintendent Becky Cselovszki, high school principal Karla Beck, and Les Zellmann explained the different circumstances surrounding the case to explain the punishment that was handed out in a recent incident involving the wrestling program.

Cselovszki urged the policy committee to get together and go over the handbook and look at the student discipline policy regarding first and multiple-time offenders, as well as in school and out of school suspensions. 

In terms of the budget, concerns were raised over open positions, including Dean of Students and administrative assistant at the district level. Also grouped among the budget was the rise of special education, speech, social work, and ELL seeing higher workloads and needs of service.

From the '14-'15 year to the '19-'20 school year, the amount of caseloads has increased from 86 to 125. Children from 2-4 are now coming into the district with no speech skills at all. In '15-'16, there were 122 EL eligible students. This year, approximately 194 students will qualify, though that number is not final. As of May 2019, there are 11 SLIFE (Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education) students from grades 9-12.

Including in these statistics was a letter from a high school staffer claiming to be "burning out" due to the increase in numbers and workloads.  

In regards to the budgeting for these programs, the board brought up concerns over the general fund balance and building construction funds both operating in the negative. 

"I don't know if we can cut any more," said board member Michelle Mohlenbrock. Mohlenbrock cited the letter, concerned over losing another quality employee because they are burned out. 

"Any and all indications are that we are going to be a community that continues to be a haven for newcomers," said Beck. "You can disagree with that or welcome that. That's not my point. My point is that we are a community that is going to continue to have newcomers."

"We are here to do things for the good of kids so what are we going to do?" said Mohlenbrock. "And that means all kids."

Beck said that the more families that sign up for free and reduced lunch, the more aid the school would get.

"Don't let a fund balance that the state recommends or one of your neighboring schools recommends be your guide when you're talking about this three-year-old who is non-verbal or this gifted student at the high school who needs services too," said attendee John Becker.

Spitzner marked that out of 332 schools, only five have only had a negative fund balance, and only two have had a negative fund balance for more than a year. In some areas, St. James spends more than other schools that are not operating in a negative fund balance. The school's fund balance as of June 30, 2019, was -$30,990.

Cselovszki announced that the Southfork program would be moved from New Ulm to a computer lab within Northside. 

The final item of note was the school calendar. School is projected to start on September 8th, with a shorter Christmas break. Graduation is scheduled for June 6th. The final schedule will be revealed at the March meeting to be held on March 9th.