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Chisago Lakes Schools

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March 28, 2020

2/27/2020 2:34:00 PM
District caught off guard by $1.3 million fire suppression requirement

Less than a month after holding a ribbon cutting for the renovations done at the Taylors Falls Elementary School, the school district said they were cited by the fire marshal for their lack of fire suppression system at the building.

According to the district, the sprinkler system was not something that was brought up by inspectors in the process of planning or in the construction process, so it caught them off guard  when they were notified.

The fire suppression system will cost $1.3 million and the district will need to sell bonds to pay for the project.

It will mean, according to Superintendent Dean Jennissen, that some things that were just installed as part of the renovation will need to be taken down to install the system.

Board member Jerry Vitalis was not thrilled with the development and asked why the issue was just coming up now, and not in the initial process, wondering if there was a change in laws.

“All we know is they cited us,” Director of Business Services Doug Hasler said. “Laws may have changed, but all we know is this was not required until after the project was financed and finalized. It’s a good question to ask why now?”

Hasler said the district will solicit bids starting March 3 and the work will begin before the end of the fiscal year. The bonds will be sold to the tune of $1.3 million and will have a small tax impact on local residents. The 10-year bonds were estimated to come in at about 2.06 percent interest by Ehlers Accountants, who will handle the sale. Senior Municipal Advisor from Ehlers Jodie Zesbaugh was on hand and noted the tax impact on a $200,000 house would be less than one dollar per month. On a $500,000 house, the tax impact would be about $2.50 per month.

But, both Vitalis, who is acquainted well with TFE and Hasler warned that a building that old could have any number of underlying issues. “Since the building was constructed in 1952, there could be a lot of surprises,” Vitalis said.

“ICS Consulting has built that in to the budget, but you just never know,” Hasler followed up.

Lakeside Elementary teacher Andrea Hitchcock was recognized with the Exceptional Employee of the month in the district, something new they are trying out to honor their staff.

Hitchcock has a student whose mother is deployed overseas as part of a military operation and the teacher worked with the fellow staff members to organize a Treats for Troops event that brought in over 3,000 items to be sent to troops overseas.

Hitchcock was at the board meeting and after kind words from board members, she said, “Nothing we’ve done has been by ourselves. It’s been the work of the whole building and the whole community. Everyone has stepped up in a big way.”

She noted that Parent -Teacher Organization stepped up to help with shipping costs and that they’re teaming with local service program Beyond the Yellow Ribbon to help deliver the supplies. “This has been all about the kids,” Hitchcock said. “And to see the young students’ eyes light up at all the donations was just wonderful.”

The district offered an early retirement incentive to teachers in an effort to create some long-term savings. Nine teachers took the offer, among them were high school teachers Jeff Lindeman, Ralph Frerich, Mike Sandell, Rick Bouwens and Sue Rivard, middle school teachers David Anderson, Becky Burr and Tom Tengwall and TF Elementary teacher Sue Anderson.

The Chisago Lakes Band boosters took part in the open forum to express their optimism that they’ll be able to get new uniforms for the band members in the near future.

Jen Jensen, the president of the CL Band Boosters, noted that band uniforms are upwards of $350-450 each and that students have been “coming out of the woodwork to be in band” in recent years, necessitating a larger number of uniforms.

She said the last time the school got new uniforms was in 1992 and they cannot even wear them in summer events because they are heavy wool and too warm. The new uniforms would be a modernized material that would keep the students cool. “The marching band is the most visible activity to the general public,” Jensen said, noting that they are in parades around the state all summer and perform many times per year out of the area.
So far, the booster club has raised $14,000 and has multiple events scheduled to help keep the ball rolling. They’ll have a spring garage sale on March 20 and 21 and a fundraising event at Winehaven Winery on Friday, May 15.

The booster club encouraged community members with stuff to donate for the garage sale or interest in sponsoring a table at the Winehaven event to e-mail chisagolakesbandboosters@gmail.com or call 651-400-0234.

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