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Construction ongoing as school year looms

CLOQUET SCHOOL BOARD

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With just under three weeks until the start of school, all of the Cloquet schools are wrapping up construction projects and staff are excited to see their new spaces.

While middle school and Community Education staff and students will experience the largest change as they head into an entirely new building, administration and office staff at the other schools will have new digs — and all buildings will have more secure entrances.

Cloquet Middle School Principal Tom Brenner said he is hoping to have teachers and staff in the A wing by Aug. 21, and access to the B wing by Aug. 25.

"The kids are coming on [Sept. 6], no matter what," Brenner said, when asked if all the spaces will be ready. "If we have to phy-ed outside, we'll make it up."

The school district tweeted a photo of the new swimming pool being filled up with water, and Brenner said the terrazzo Lumberjack image in the entryway is coming together very nicely.

"It's a piece of art," he said, noting that the district negotiated the cost down to about half of the original estimate. "The workers are very excited about it."

Cloquet School Board members approved a significant change order for a new public address system at the high school, which will cost more than $100,000. It will improve communication and safety, noted T.J. Smith, the district's new technology coordinator.

Smith said the consulting engineer described the current PA system as "three different systems 'Frankensteined' together."

With the middle school adjacent to the high school, there are other changes coming to the district. Middle school start and end times will now be the same as the high school, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Buses will drop off at one spot behind both buildings, and elementary school students will be able to complete bus changes each afternoon before the older kids are dismissed.

Washington Avenue will also be designated as a school zone adjacent to the middle school, and signs will will reduce speeds to 20 mph from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. when students are present.

There will also be three different crosswalks located at the intersections of Washington Avenue and 18th, 20th and 22nd streets. Adult crossing guards will supervise the crosswalks before and after school. In addition, there will be a rectangular flashing beacon crosswalk sign on both sides of the intersection with 20th Street. Pedestrians press a button when waiting to cross.

In other matters Monday, Board members

• Voted 3-2 to start new CMS Assistant Principal Tom Lenarz at Step 1 of the salary schedule, in contradiction to a recommendation by a subcommittee of the school board to start the longtime school district employee at Step 2. Board members voting for the Step 1 placement were Jim Crowley, Ted Lammi and Nate Sandman, largely to stay consistent with past principal hirings, they said.

• Approved a new contract for student information specialist Nicole Sandman. Resident Jim Mallery pointed out that Sandman is related to board member Nate Sandman and questioned why she was singled out for an increase in pay. Scarbrough said the district had been researching the pay for the position since before Nate Sandman was elected to the board. Sandman abstained from voting.

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Breakout box: Come see the new middle school

The Cloquet School District will hold a Grand Opening ceremony for the new middle school from 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15. There will be a dedication ceremony and residents can use maps provided to take self-guided tours of the new grade 5-8 school. All are invited.

Superintendent Ken Scarbrough said he hopes community members will come out and see what their tax dollars have paid for, and also see the new community spaces that the new school will provide, such as the pool, gymnasium and activity center (which houses the cafeteria during the school day). There will be people stationed around the building to help explain what people are seeing and answer questions, he said.

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