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Chisago Lakes Schools

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April 11, 2021

2/26/2021 3:09:00 PM
CL Primary School remodel moving forward with design plans

Chisago Lakes Primary School’s main entrance and offices will be getting a nice facelift by way of an addition soon.

Design plans were approved for the upcoming project at the Chisago Lakes School Board meeting on Thursday, February 18.

The public got ts first look at the detailed plans after seeing a rough layout of the addition was shown at the January board meeting. Wold Architects and ICS Consulting, who have been with Chisago Lakes throughout their whole construction process with the Wildcat Center, the new Lakeside Elementary and the Taylors Falls remodel, gave their presentation to what will be the final project primarily funded by that bond money.

According to Wold Architects, the addition with correct programmatic needs identified for specialists, special ed and student support, provides space to support intervention, creates a cohesive entry for both Early Childhood programs as well as grades K-1 and allows both Early Childhood and the Primary school to benefit from shared facilities and operations. It must also  support the need to separate the programs when necessary.

“This was a great process,” board member Lori Berg said. “Every teacher in that space got to speak up and give us their needs for their areas and the designs are beautiful.”

The board continued to stress that a majority of the funding is coming from savings that were realized during the construction projects around the district from the bond money.

The total cost for the Primary School project is at $4.9 million and $3.3 million of it is from bond money, $1.1 million is from the sale of the old Lakeside School property and $500,000 is from the district’s Long Term Facilities Maintenence fund. There will be no impact to the taxpayers for the project.

“We continue to be thankful for that bond and we want to continue to help people understand how that money has to be spent,” Superintendent Dean Jennissen said. “It’s tough when we are looking at budget reductions but also remodeling a school. But, we are only using funds that are available for building.”

Governor Tim Walz announced that districts may begin to transition to less restrictive teaching models, so  Jennissen and the board discussed where the district and county are at.

Certain thresholds need to be met to be in a less resrictive instruction model, which for Chisago Lakes, would mean full in-person, and they are not at those thresholds. “The only way we’d get into full in-person learning is by petitioning into it,” Jennissen said. He noted that the suggestion is that if five percent of your students and staff are in a quarantine protocol, districts should move to a more restrictive model. Every building except the high school is over five percent, and the high school is just under the five percent. He didn’t say the district will be going to a more restrictive model, but he wanted to highlight that just because things have been improving at the state and county level, doesn’t mean they can just jump into full in-person at the district level. “To those that want us to be full in-person like districts near us, weeks like (the one prior) are problematic. We had quite a few quarantines at Taylors Falls from just one case. The county numbers are dropping, but our internal numbers are rising. We are relying on our numbers, not North Branch’s or Rush City’s.”

Jennissen also pointed out that Spring Break is upcoming, and people will be traveling all over the world and returning to the buildings. “There’s a little bit of a concern there,” he said.

Jennissen did sound optimistic that a majority of the school staff will be getting their second vaccine dose in early March and that the district is potentially targeting bringing back grades six through 12 by the end of March or first week in April.

“Some in the community want a return much sooner than that, but where our numbers are right now, that could potentially be an issue. We are focused on a safe and sustainable learning model and it’s a hard dance to know what the right thing is to do,” Jennissen explained. “We might have numbers to get there, but we need to sustain models. Activities are going full force, which is great, but that’s another opportunity for spread. The guidelines are the guidelines. We can’t just throw those out and say we’re going to do our own thing.”

Jennissen also explained that in the new guidelines, a petition to return to full in-person would require students and staff to remain three feet apart from each other if the county numbers aren’t in the 0-9 range. “It’s not going to happen that we have 30 people three feet apart in a 900 square foot classroom,” he said. “There’s not a single high school that has ability to have 30 students in class. We’re hoping they would just recommend that and not require it, but they are sticking to it right now. It’s not possible or practical unless you have a massive high school space. We don’t want to go back to distance learning if there are issues.”

Board member Berg added that she thinks state headlines about Walz’s decision  saying that schools can start to return to in person models were misleading. “Unless our county number gets below nine, we probably aren’t going to get an OK,” she said.
“The only thing we can control is our number in our district. You can’t compare us to any other area. There’s no override. We can’t just decide what we want to do. We are governed. We have done exactly what we should do based on the numbers and guidance,” board member Jeff Lindeman added. “We’re following rules for safety and I want parents to know we are doing as much as we can and getting as much face to face time as we can. I want to commend the whole board on their work in this.”

In other business—the Chisago Lakes Middle School is looking at rescheduling the Washington D.C. trip to mid-October if COVID numbers continue to improve and traveling is recommended again. Last year’s was cancelled and families that had paid for it and no longer wanted to attend were refunded in full.

Andrea McKinnon said that there are still 49 paid participants that want to go this fall, including 45 students and four chaperones.
The district will continue to look into instituting the Wildcat Academy full time. They were hoping that one teacher could oversee multiple subjects for those that want to distance learn going forward once school starts to become less restrictive, but there needs to be a dedicated teacher for each course subject, and that presents a problem in regards to teacher availability and the district budget . It’s something the district does want to continue to look into though and hopefully be able to institute at a later time.

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