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Ely students will be learning to learn during building project

School Board considering elementary schedule change to allow more time to pack and store classrooms

Keith Vandervort
Posted 4/28/21

ELY – As the ISD 696 school community plans for the completion of a major construction project on the school campus over the next 18 months or so, disruptions and dust will likely be the new …

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Ely students will be learning to learn during building project

School Board considering elementary schedule change to allow more time to pack and store classrooms

Posted

ELY – As the ISD 696 school community plans for the completion of a major construction project on the school campus over the next 18 months or so, disruptions and dust will likely be the new normal as builders demolish unused structures, work to link two existing school buildings, and renovate landmark facilities.
The $20 million project should be completed in time for the start of the 2022-23 school year, but staff and students are already getting a taste of the temporary re-locations, classroom shuffling and learning materials storage challenges necessary for the renovation of the 100-year-old buildings.
School board members were updated on the project during a study session Monday night and were asked to consider, among other things, approving an end-of-the-school year schedule change for the K-5 students in the Washington building to make room for construction crews.
Superintendent Erik Erie reminded school board members of the construction pre-bid meeting this week with project manager Kraus-Anderson to discuss the parameters of the second phase of the construction project. This second bid package involves the extensive renovations planned for the Washington and Memorial buildings.
The first phase of the project that will link the two buildings has already been bid by construction firms and approved by the school board. While the project is being bid in two phases, all construction work on the campus will occur simultaneously.
The phase 2 pre-bid meeting with contractors, and the public tabulation of the bids, scheduled for Thursday, May 13, will itself be disrupted, according to Erie, because the Washington Auditorium is being used as a learning materials storage area for the duration of the project. The meetings will be held in the Memorial building media center.
School board members have scheduled a special meeting on Monday, May 24 to accept the phase 2 bid recommendations from Kraus-Anderson.
“We had (asbestos) abatement start today already in the old boiler building,” Erie said. “But May 17 is the start of the project when we turn things over to Kraus-Anderson.” He noted that the electrical contractor is already on site disconnecting machines and fixtures in the Industrial Arts building.
A ground-breaking ceremony for the project is scheduled for Thursday, May 27, beginning at 11 a.m. The Costin Group and Kraus-Anderson are facilitating the event. The public is invited.
School administrators are discussing how to allow Ely students to attend the ceremony.
“I have seen other school districts include the students in ground-breaking ceremonies, but that was in non-COVID times,” Erie said. “We’ll have to make (social distancing) accommodations for that anyway.”
Calendar revision
K-5 Principal Anne Oelke proposed a minor end-of-year school calendar change to school board members.
“We are being tasked with a really big job, that all classrooms, closets and storage, the library, and everything else be packed and labeled by Tuesday, June 8,” she said. “We teach students to Friday, June 4. That leaves us June 5-6, a Saturday and Sunday, and the teacher workshop day on June 7.”
She proposed that the school calendar be modified to end on Wednesday, June 2, to give staff and teachers more time to vacate the building before renovations begin on the building. Construction plans call for the elementary building refurbishing and updating to be completed in time for students to return in September.
In addition, the school’s summer services, like special education, reading classes, Range Mental Health Adapt program, along with the elementary school office, must also be relocated to the Memorial building by June 8.
“There is a lot to be done in a very short amount of time,” Oelke said.
She also noted that with the schedule modification, Ely elementary students would meet the state-required instructional hours for the school year.
While the school board was not able to act on the request during the study session this week, Oelke sought an indication of general support so she could draft a letter to parents to prepare them for the end-of-year schedule change.
“I have to let my parents know if the year will be two days shorter,” she said.
Erie indicated that the district’s administrative team supported the school calendar revision recommendation.
“Principal Oelke has been working on this for over a month, with input from her staff. She was ready to do this in early April,” he said.
School board members did not indicate any concerns with the calendar revision and will likely approve the recommendation at the next meeting on May 10.

Seven-period school day?
Megan Anderson, 6-12 principal, presented scenarios to transition Memorial School students to a seven-period school day beginning in the 2021-22 school year. One of the proposals is designed to not incur additional teaching costs, and adds study halls while allowing students to take an additional course.
“We hope to focus on study skills for our middle school students,” she said. “For high school students, it allows them to take band or languages while their four core classes are taken care of. It allows for some flexibility. They may be able to take a shop class or an anatomy class, and spreads out the day a little bit.”
The class length would be reduced from 55 to 50-minute periods.
Anderson also presented her “dream schedule” that replaces many study halls with new classes, such as financial literacy, astronomy, health and nutrition, percussion ensemble, math quest and more study skills learning opportunities.
“This schedule does potentially add nine or 10 additional classes that would need to be paid for, and we’re looking on the salary schedule at somewhere between $90,000 and $120,000,” she said. “That is a substantial increase to our costs. Can this be sustainable is the million-dollar question.”
Board chair Ray Marnik questioned whether the additional classes could be covered by existing staff, considering contractual agreement from both the school district and the teachers’ union.
Anderson said teaching staff opinions “are a mixed bag” on supporting the school day proposals. “It is a balance of more teaching time, and the extra salary,” she said.

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