Air ventilation for varsity gym to get upgrade

High school students will have more opportunities to participate on school board committees beginning next fall following a vote by the Forest Lake Area School Board during its Thursday, June 24 meeting.

The decision was a part of a debate brought up at the June 3 meeting surrounding suggestions by the Minnesota School Board Association to allow students more participation on school boards, which was brought to the school board for discussion by Superintendent Steve Massey. 

The selection process will be developed by Massey and high school principal Jim Caldwell and go through a final approval process with the board later this summer. Participation on board committees will be allowed for all but the staff welfare committee due to confidentiality reasons. Committee assignments for students can include buildings and grounds; communications; curriculum, instruction and equity; finance; and policy. 

A separate portion of the debate regarding student participation within the school board included whether or not a non-voting student position should exist on the school board. Students interested would either apply or be nominated and would have to go through a selection process yet to be determined by Massey and Caldwell and approved by the board. Under the current proposal, that student would not participate in any closed sessions and wouldn’t have access to sensitive material, including negotiation strategies, personnel matters, land acquisitions, legal action, student discipline or student data. The student position would be in an advisory capacity; the student could suggest agenda items for meetings and would be bound by all school board rules and regulations.

Board members Alex Keto and Kate Luthner were big proponents of creating a position on the board, saying that it would open up communication between students and the board and also create opportunities for students to gain experience in government and afford them access to a MSBA scholarship opportunity. 

“I know we talked about this a lot at the last meeting, and I know there’s some history I’m not involved in with how this may have happened in the past, but this can be a career launch,” Keto said. “I can’t believe that ... there wouldn’t be one student that would take this as an opportunity to launch a career in either government or some other career in politics or otherwise.”

Board members Julie Corcoran, Jill Olson, and Gail Theisen had varying levels of concerns regarding the position, most of which had to do with wanting to gauge student interest.

“I’d hate to do all this planning and not have a student interested,” Corcoran said, suggesting that she wanted to see students get involved more in the committees first to get a handle on the commitment level required, adding that missing a committee meeting is not the same as missing a board meeting.

“To get kids to commit, that’s going to be the key, and to get the right people.”

Olson said she had similar concerns, but was also “not opposed to us getting a policy in place” for perhaps the 2022-2023 school year.

Theisen said she was conflicted, saying she saw the value and opportunity the position would bring, but said it was too early to commit to the position. 

“I can’t make that leap yet,” she said.

Board member Rob Rapheal said he had difficulty finding the value of the position.

“I don’t think having a student rep on the board is the best way to get students engaged in school board activity and decision making,” he said, adding “but on the other hand, it’s always fun to try something new and see how it works.”

He later suggested that the board seek student input on the creation of the position. 

The board voted to allow the policy committee to take up the discussion and bring back their recommendation. Due to the timing of the policy committee’s schedule, a decision would not be made until at least October, and would come to the board for final approval at earliest in November.

Gym upgrades discussed

As part of the alternative facilities maintenance revenue plan, which uses funds given to the district by the state specifically for facilities upkeep, the district has offered a priority list of upcoming projects around the district. Specific projects include upgrades to the sports center, including upgrades to the supply and ventilation, and adding a hard wall and roof over the second ice sheet due to the end of life expectancy for the current fabric bubble, thus threatening a severe roof tear. 

Directly next on the list is the replacement of the original 1972 air handlers at the high school cafeteria, bringing in cool air to the cafeteria area as well the varsity gym. 

“I’m aware that’s a hot topic,” business director Larry Martini said. 

Meetings will begin soon with the district’s engineer to discuss potential solutions, and the possibility of using federal funds to address it. 

“What I plan to do is come back with a temporary plan for how we can conduct cold air into your varsity gym and see if federal dollars qualify,” Martini said. 

The earliest the project would take place would be sometime in late 2022, but is scheduled for 2024 currently. 

Further down the priority list are upgrades to the education center, Forest View Elementary School, the middle school, and the Wyoming Elementary School boilers, the air handlers and pool locker rooms at the Education Center, and the district office and Forest View rooftop units.

Another project the district is exploring right now is adding coatings to the exterior of Forest View Elementary, which was noted at the June 3 meeting, as looking drab on the facade. 

Martini said that he doesn’t anticipate any changes to property taxes due to the facilities maintenance revenue plan.

Middle school curriculum update

The board unanimously voted to move forward with the middle school career gateway curriculum update, which would give students more choice and experiences in potential careers prior to high school. The career gateway curriculum would begin in the fall of 2022. The next steps include teachers developing specific courses for each of the experiences, and they will be coming for board approval throughout the year. A further reading on how the courses would be structured can be found in the June 24 edition of The Times or at tinyurl.com/3tybe4br.

Hannah Davis is the Area Editor at the Forest Lake Times. You can contact her at hannah.davis@ecm-inc.com or (763)233-0709

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