Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Construction companies come to the table

Super: ARI, Kraus-Anderson ‘want to work with us’

Marcus White
Posted 4/24/19

FIELD TWP— The possibility of legal action against companies involved in the construction of both the North Woods and South Ridge schools, discussed earlier this month by the St. Louis County …

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Construction companies come to the table

Super: ARI, Kraus-Anderson ‘want to work with us’

Posted

FIELD TWP— The possibility of legal action against companies involved in the construction of both the North Woods and South Ridge schools, discussed earlier this month by the St. Louis County School District, has brought two of the three contractors to the table.

At this week’s school board meeting, held Tuesday at the North Woods School, Superintendent Reggie Engebritson said Kraus-Anderson and ARI had been in contact with district officials after news broke that the district was planning to hire legal counsel to pursue possible legal claims over problems experienced at the two schools, which the district had built in 2010 and 2011.

“They want to work with us and find some resolution,” Engebritson said. “ARI has said if there are things we need, to let them know.”

Even with the two contractors pledging their assistance, Engebritson still asked the board to authorize obtaining legal counsel should the results of discussions with the companies not match the district’s expectations.

Johnson Controls International (JCI), meanwhile, had still not been in touch with the district as of Tuesday’s board meeting.

Establishing which parties might actually be liable for a wide range of building issues— some serious, others relatively minor— may prove difficult. Engebritson noted that JCI, rather than the school district, had contracted with Kraus-Anderson and ARI to perform the work at the two schools, and that the terms of those contracts were not entirely clear.

Additionally, she added, it was not clear if anyone who worked on the projects is still employed by JCI. Publicity over JCI’s handling of the school district’s project, which was heavily-reported by the Timberjay at the time, largely forced JCI to discontinue its school facilities contracting work in Minnesota, and the employees involved mostly left for other firms.

Graduation rates

The Department of Education released its 2018 graduation report card and Engebritson said the district would look into disappointing numbers at Cherry and North Woods.

Since 2012, Minnesota has been using a federally-mandated cohort model that follows students when they enter ninth grade. The state collects data on whether students are graduating with a high school diploma or a GED within seven years of their freshman year.

Each year, the data on the four-year graduation rates are released.

Northeast Range was the only district high school with a 100-percent, four-year graduation rate. South Ridge posted a graduation rate of 92 percent, or 35 of 38 students graduating on time.

At North Woods, the rate fell to 88 percent, or 30 of 34 graduating. The report said one student had dropped out with three students continuing beyond their fourth year.

Cherry proved the biggest question mark, with a graduation rate of 61 percent or 16 of 26 students. The campus had three dropouts, four continuing students and three whose status could not be verified.

Engebritson said she will be working with district and school staff to look into the rates and try to gather more data than are currently available.

North Woods Principal John Vukmanich said his school makes every effort to be in touch with parents and students ahead of graduation to help them graduate on time.

North Woods report

Vukmanich gave a report to the board on various student activities at North Woods.

He said students have been focused on preparing for their standardized MCA tests, which are administered each spring. The school is also participating in the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) test. The test randomly selects schools from across the country to gauge how well American schools match up against other countries. Results from each school’s performance on the test is not made public according to Vukmanich.

Aside from testing, Vukmanich briefly discussed the continuing success of the boys basketball team, which competed in its third straight Class A state title match last month. He displayed a photo of the school’s commons area that was packed with fans during the games.

Vukmanich also highlighted outdoor activities by students, showing photos of a recent field trip to Voyageurs National Park for snowshoeing, as well as an ice fishing trip on Lake Vermilion.

Further collaboration with the Nett Lake School was also presented. Vukmanich also discussed efforts to further collaborate with the Nett Lake Elementary, telling the board that he is working to bring a “sister school mentality” between the two schools.

Other business

In other business, the school board:

Heard that the Ely school district will be discussing further commitments to the Iron Range collaborative initiatives between several area school districts.

Approved without discussion a ratified contract with the district’s custodians.

Approved a change to the district’s budget as presented at the previous study session.

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