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Board talks repairs from recent damages

Damage figures are still coming in from two recent water pipe incidents at the Cloquet Middle School.

Speaking at Monday night’s meeting of the Cloquet School Board, Middle School Principal Tom Brenner said that a steam pipe rupture on the evening of Feb. 9 appears to have caused between $20,000 and $30,000 in damage to a classroom.

“The room was completely gutted,” Brenner said. “The plaster is off the walls and now everything is out of the room.”

There was concern over the functionality of a series of Chromebook computers which were in the room, but Brenner said the manufacturer had refurbished them and they appear to work normally.

“We were told that if we have issues, they will replace the entire stock,” he said.

To make matters worse, a second water line in a janitor’s closet near the gymnasium burst on Feb. 13. That spill wasn’t quite as bad since it happened when staff could clean up the damage as it happened, but the staff was unable to turn off the water line since it was a fire line.

“We had to wait for the fire department to shut off the line, but at least we could mop up the water as it came down,” he said. Brenner said he is still waiting for insurance adjusters to estimate the damage.

Superintendent Ken Scarbrough said the district has $5,000 individual deductibles for such occurrences and expects both incidents to reach that threshold.

He also used those incidents to ask for additional public input at the third scheduled district facilities meeting on March 3 at the high school cafeteria.

“We have had great input so far, with about 75 people at the first meeting and another 50 at the second,” he said, “but we want as much input as possible and we need to start narrowing down the options. Do we want a pool, what do we want done with the existing middle school, those are all important things. And if we leave part of the middle school standing as some want, we’ll still have millions of dollars in issues like tuckpointing, roof repairs, and secure entryways to deal with. We need to know if that is what people want.”

In a light agenda, a resolution accepting tentative bargaining agreements with all the district’s bargaining units was taken off the agenda because only one union had yet had a chance to vote on the new contracts.

“We did all that work negotiating one-year contracts because of health care considerations and then two weeks after we do that the government issues a 243-page revision pushing the mandate back another year,” Scarbrough said.

In comments prior to the meeting, Scarbrough said he wanted the board to make a decision on the size of the Science Fair budget for next year. He said the district spends about $18,000 on the program and, though it is wildly successful, he wants the board to buy in to that amount for next year.

“Please do not get me wrong, Dr. (Cynthia) Welsh does an amazing job with that program,” Scarbrough said. “I feel funny even talking about it because it’s such a hugely successful program, but that’s a lot of money. I’d want to get the board’s concurrence.”

“We talk about athletics keeping kids in school — science fair keeps kids in school,” Brenner said. “We have kids who don’t do well in other subjects but who love science. This program is an outstanding opportunity. We’ve had about 50 kids go to the state science fair and some have received scholarships to great universities. It’s an incredible program.”