Middle school will be key to facilities studyThe Cloquet School Board will interview four potential vendors hoping to produce a facilities study for the district in the coming months.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
The Cloquet School Board will interview four potential vendors hoping to produce a facilities study for the district in the coming months.
The district received five responses to its Request for Proposals but decided not to interview with Widseth Smith Nolting of Baxter, Minn., due to a fee structure board members felt was too high.
The firms to be interviewed, along with their estimated fees for service, include:
- TKDA of Duluth – lump sum fee of $35,000
- Kraus Anderson Construction Company of Circle Pines, Minn. – estimated $16,000
- Architectural Resources of Duluth and Hibbing – $27,500 plus reimbursables
- TSP of Minneapolis – estimated $16,000 plus reimbursables
Superintendent Ken Scarbrough said he didn’t see a way to work with Widseth Smith Nolting for less than $50,000 after reading the company’s proposal.
“They do great work but are expensive,” he said.
Board members hope to find a vendor who will provide a study that will provide nuts-and-bolts information to assist in passing a referendum to replace the aging Cloquet Middle School.
“We want something we can take to the public,” board member Dave Battaglia said. “I’m more interested in finding out what we’re going to need rather than what it’s going to look like.”
Scarbrough noted that Cloquet Middle School will be a key focus of any facilities plan.
“We knew we didn’t want to sink a lot into the middle school since it’s our oldest building,” he said. “Sometime within the next 10 years, though, we’ll need to look at a replacement for it. The community has told us that we need to do something. It’s a question of how and when.”
Scarbrough said that one company not invited to submit a proposal was Johnson Controls, which assisted the Duluth School District with its controversial “Red Plan.”
“That would not be a good name to put in the paper at this point in time,” Board Chair Gary Huard said.
District staff will schedule interview times with the school board within the next few weeks.
In other actions, the board also voted down a motion that would have made the “Careers and Money Matters” course a district requirement for graduation.
Proponents presented the results of a survey of interested parties and course graduates to the board indicating that 97 percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of the course. Board members and Scarbrough noted that the course was very valuable and presented information needed for students to live a healthy financial life.
The debate then centered around making the course a graduation requirement in place of other electives or music courses.
“I do understand the reservations against it,” Cloquet High School Principal Warren Peterson said, “but it might be the only structured personal finance these students might have. Graduating seniors could earn college credit.”
He estimated about 15 percent of CHS students take the course each year.
Scarbrough noted practical difficulties with making the course a requirement without expressing an opinion on the vote.
“If you make [the personal finance class] a requirement, there is an elective someone isn’t able to take,” he said. “We are adding vocational education, and people may not get to take it. If we have 97 percent of people saying it’s a great class, 97 percent might enroll in it without it being required.”
Some board members were concerned about precedent.
“I don’t like to see mandates,” school board member Duane Buytaert said. “How can we educate our parents to stress this for their kids? We’re stepping over the control of families to set the educational path for their students. Where do you stop?”
“Where do we draw the line?” Battaglia asked. “Who comes in next year thinking their course should be a requirement?”
The resolution failed 5-1, with Dan Danielson the only member to vote in favor.
In other actions, the board:
- Re-elected Huard as board chair. The board also elected Buytaert as clerk and Danielson as treasurer for the coming calendar year.
- In closed session, voted to expel “Student 011413” for a period of up to one year. Scarbrough said the student was expelled for bringing a knife to the middle school, but students were not in danger at the time. The vote marked the second time this school year the board has had to expel a student for violations of the district’s zero-tolerance weapons policy. The student’s education is ongoing in accordance with district policy.
Editor’s note: During the meeting, Pine Journal reporter Jeff Papas addressed the school board on the “Careers and Money Matters” course issue, speaking against the resolution as the father of a CHS student. His opinions did not necessarily represent those of the Pine Journal and this note is included as full disclosure of that activity.