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North Branch Schools

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January 21, 2022

9/18/2014 3:32:00 PM
CL School Board sets preliminary levy

The Chisago Lakes School Board has approved a preliminary levy of $7.94 million for taxes payable 2015. The total includes a general levy amount of $4.63 million, for an increase of $429,319 over the current year’s general levy. About two-thirds of that hike, or $283,195, represents a health and safety levy increase to cover costs of repairs and improvements done this summer at district schools. Much of that work was required by a state fire marshal’s order, according to the district’s Director of Business Services Heide Miller.
The fire marshal’s checklist included new access and security doors at some schools, extra fire alarms for installation in most of the district buildings, plus there were lockers replaced at Taylors Falls Elementary School and construction of balcony storage space in the high school performing arts center.
Debt service is reduced by about $100,000 to $3.02 million as part of next year’s preliminary levy. Miller explained at a board meeting Sept. 15 that a recent refunding of outstanding bonds will save an estimated $1 million for the district over 10 years.
Miller told the board to expect that staff at this time next year will recommend an increase in the building lease levy, within the general levy. District officials are projecting a need to add a fourth-grade homeroom at Lakeside Elementary for the following school year, Miller said. There is no extra space for another classroom within those walls, however, and the district would need to consider lease dollars for placing a portable classroom unit adjacent to the building.
A school tax hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Dec. 11.
In other board business:
Superintendent Joe Thimm reported that early enrollment figures show an increase of about 60 in the district’s student population. “This is the biggest change we’ve had in the last four or five years,” he said.
Thimm said that the increase may be credited to growing open enrollment as well as to an influx of new households with students entering the district. There is particular growth in second grade at the Primary School, which supports hiring another second-grade teacher, Thimm said.
– Two women addressed the board with concerns on the district’s “bring your own device” (BYOD) pilot program that has been introduced for eighth-grade students at the middle school. The visitors advised board members to consult with other parents and students throughout the year before voting to continue or expand the program.
Eighth-grade students are expected to carry an iPad or other electronic tablet for use in daily school activity.
Regarding a statement that the gadgets could replace textbooks, one of the parents, Jacque Smallman said that would have parents and families directly responsible for supplying their children’s “textbooks.”
“To me, this represents a barrier to public education,” she said. (Smallman is also a candidate for school board.)
Smallman added that she understood $50 annual iPad rentals were available for students receiving free or reduced-price lunches based on household applications. However, she said, “for many of us, we’re too proud to fill out that paperwork.”
Lisa Eickman identified herself as a mother of four students in the district through open enrollment, including one now at the middle school.
She said her children have access to an iPad, but it is a shared household device. Eickman said that she would not want family photos and banking information on the tablet being open to others at school.
She added that she disliked the idea of computers and email replacing all printed communication such as worksheets and flyers. Without that information which parents could easily access and read at home, Eickman said, it may push parents “out of the loop.”
– Curriculum Director Sarah Schmidt shared recent testing results including from last spring’s Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs). (See story in Sept. 4 Chisago County Press)
She noted that MCAs in reading are given to students in grades 3-10, where 69.2 percent of Chisago Lakes students showed proficiency last year compared with 58.8 percent statewide.
More than 75 percent of district students showed proficiency in math on the MCAs last year (markedly higher than 60 percent statewide).
– Board members authorized high school Principal Dave Ertl and Community Education Director Bob Meyer to apply for  arts and music grants for funding district programs.
Ertl noted that the high school music department offers a guitar instruction course, as an elective during regular school hours, and participating students now must have a personal guitar to bring to school for their classes. Ertl will seek a grant of $3,800 from the St. Croix Valley Foundation to purchase guitars for the program that would make the class accessible.
Meyer seeks a grant of $1,500 from the same foundation to buy violins in order to offer after-school classical lessons at the high school. He also received board approval to request $15,000 from the East Central Arts Council for bringing after-school pottery and other arts to the elementary buildings next spring.
– The board recognized exemplary support staff working in the district who will receive honors at a Resource Training and Solutions conference Sept. 24 in St. Cloud.
Those district employees include Theresa Cottingham, administrative assistant to the activities director at the high school; Nancy Martin, Early Childhood preschool paraprofessional at the Family Center; Barb Nelson, current health aide and former paraprofessional at Lakeside; Marianna Schultz, paraprofessional at the middle school; Shirley Swanson, lead custodian at Taylors Falls; Deb Willem, health aide at the Primary School.

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