Where’s the Kids’ Corner?The Cloquet School Board has authorized district administration to begin lease negotiations in case the Kids’ Corner program has to be moved at the start of the next school year.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
The Cloquet School Board has authorized district administration to begin lease negotiations in case the Kids’ Corner program has to be moved at the start of the next school year.
At its Monday meeting, the board held discussions on how to best utilize available space at Washington and Churchill elementary schools and who might have to move where in the event an additional first-grade section is added.
Cloquet Community Education Program Director Sara Liimatainen made a presentation to the board that advocated moving a third-grade section from Washington to Churchill and keeping the Kids’ Corner program in its present location at Washington.
“This isn’t insignificant for parents who need child care,” Liimatainen said. “What we strive for is consistency for parents. We don’t know the effect that moving Kids’ Corner will have on families and leasing other space is more expensive than using the current space we have.”
However, space is at a premium in the elementary schools as it is, and after a presentation on first-grade class sizes by a group of local parents, Superintendent Ken Scarbrough noted that other options such as bringing in trailers and temporary accommodations should the district outgrow its buildings wasn’t a palatable option.
“I’m not convinced we should be in the child-care business in the first place,” board member Sandy Crowley said. “Our first priority is to look at the kids we’re teaching.”
“What are our priorities?” board member Duane Buytaert added. “Do we go back to half-day kindergarten [to free up classroom space]? We can’t get eight dollars out of the voting public [in last fall’s excess levy referendum] to pay the bills. How do we build a building?”
But in the end, the board voted to allow administration to look at lease options.
In other actions, the board also approved an initial balance sheet for the 2012-13 school year, which shows the district at an anticipated general fund operating deficit of $856,177. The figure is generated through anticipated revenues of $22.515 million against anticipated expenditures of $23.372 million.
The board voted to cut $514,690 from the 2012-13 operating budget in March, but walked back approximately $162,000 of those cuts in authorized new spending on May 14. Anticipated growth in spending for insurance also helped inflate the anticipated deficit, which will have to be borne out of the general fund.
Overall, the general fund is expected to shrink from its estimated June 30 balance of $4,840,232 to an estimated June 30, 2013, balance of $3,984,055 unless mitigating factors come into play. The district has estimated large operating deficits in the past that have not fully materialized due to added revenues and/or reduced expenditures.
One board member was alarmed by the budget for building improvement and remodeling, which stands at $65,000.
“If we have two major things go wrong with one of our buildings, we’re in trouble,” Buytaert said. Scarbrough noted that any overage would also have to come out of the general fund.
In other actions, the board:
+ Voted to set the filing dates for board positions which may be contested in November’s elections. Interested parties may file from 8 a.m. Tuesday, July 31, through 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14. Board Chair Gary Huard and board members Jim Crowley and Duane Buytaert are up for re-election in the fall.
+ Voted 5-1 to reschedule its planned June 18 meeting on its Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) trust to July 9 to allow all interested firms to present to the board. At present, four companies are expected to make presentations but board member Dan Danielson moved to fully open the process. Business Manager Kim Josephson said that to the best of his knowledge, all major Minnesota providers with experience in handling OPEB trusts are already scheduled to present to the board. The board is considering a new vendor to invest the fund’s balances.
The July 9 meeting will begin at 4:30 p.m. and will also contain an agenda item for a third vote to add another first-grade section. Board member Sandy Crowley has moved twice for adding such a section in the past.