District’s building project plans may alter next year’s school calendar
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Logistics and planning are in full swing as the Cloquet School Board prepares for required building projects at all four school buildings this summer, readies for budget cuts and builds the calendar for the next school year.
As Gene Salmi vacates the position of buildings and grounds director, the board approved a new job description that emphasizes “fiscal efficiency,” as Scarbrough called it. Scarbrough shared an example of how Salmi was able to save the district some $40,000 on oversight and monitoring of the asbestos removal project, required by the Environmental Protection Agency. That project, along with extensive ventilation upgrades, will take place this summer.
“Bids came in starting at $60-70,000, but Gene worked with them to bring that down to no more than $17,000,” said Scarbrough. Salmi asked them to reduce the number of enclosed areas needed for the abatement, which reduced the amount of sampling, and also reduced the number of sampling contractors needed for the job.
Approval was given to hire local general contractor Ray Riihiluoma Inc. for the summer ventilation upgrade projects at all four school buildings.
The bid by local electrical company Nylund Electric, was also approved while the other lowest bids for the projects were from outside Carlton County.
Energy Services Group (ESG) has been hired to document the energy savings for the district and assure that all the projects are bid and installed correctly.
The board and school principals expressed concern at the meeting about the projects getting done in time to start the school year on schedule.
ESG representatives told the board they will start working as soon as possible, focus on finishing the classrooms first and work closely with the district and the contractors to stay on schedule.
“Do you foresee problems?” asked board chair Gary Huard.
“I always foresee problems, day one,” ESG Representative Dan Howard replied, “but I try to avoid them.”
Scarbrough is seeking approval from Education Minnesota Cloquet, the local teachers’ union, to borrow two snow days from this year and use them to give teachers time to pack up their classrooms prior to the project. He’d also like to arrange the school calendar so the elementary students start school two days later to allow teachers time to put their classrooms back together.
In other school calendar business, the district is also considering making early dismissals/late starts three hours instead of two. Washington Elementary Principal Randy Thudin explained the time given is not enough for teachers to organize for staff meetings. The school calendar will be up for approval at the next board meeting.
In other agenda items, the board approved a new cell phone policy that more clearly separates work use and personal use. Scarbrough said the new policy should be another money saver for the district.