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Budget reductions continue

The Cloquet School Board members are continuing to work on reducing the 2018-19 budget.

Five teachers are retiring or resigning. The board is recommending eliminating three of the full-time teaching positions. A third-grade teaching position will be eliminated due to lower class sizes moving up from the second grade, along with an elementary technology integration specialist and an 1.0 alternative delivery of specialized instructional services position.

The savings to the school district for those changes will be about $340,000. There will also be changes made to reduce summer maintenance hours of custodians by more than 900 hours. Part of the reduction is due to less maintenance at the new middle school. The estimated savings will be about $17,500.

Combined with other changes in the custodial staffing plan, a total of $27,000 will be saved, which includes the $17,500 in reduced summer hours.

Paraprofessional reductions will shave about $89,000 off of the budget. The hiring of a new Cloquet High School secretary as a part-time employee and at a lower salary, as well as fewer insurance benefits, will save the district another $16,500 for a total estimated savings of $463,000.

The board is also examining other areas to help lower district costs.

Student busing

Guest speaker Tom Watson, a consultant for Student Transportation Services, explained his findings to the school board during the work session before the last regular meeting Monday, April 9.

Watson explained that Cloquet Transit was welcoming to work with and willing to answer his questions. He also said the bus company has provided outstanding service over the last 15 years since the last contract was put in place.

Watson would like to see more efficient routing of buses.

He recommended some easy changes. Students in town can meet at one designated area for school bus pickup instead of being picked up individually at homes. The stops would be every few blocks and the stop could be at some type of building to help provide shelter, Watson suggested.

"Right now, we have buses chasing around for a handful of kids," Watson said. "A bus route could only have one elementary school in the morning, it would not go to both elementary schools, it just take more time. Same thing in the afternoon."

Watson informed board members Cloquet's ridership on buses is 30 percent, which is lower than average in Minnesota. He said the average 40 minute rides should be cut in half, which could potentially increase students riding the buses again. Parents picking up kids early after school create problems. A parent hit a bus recently.

Although he gave Cloquet Transit rave reviews, he also said the company was expensive. He recommended comparing rates for other bus companies in the area. The board agreed to take the findings into consideration.

School projects

Kraus-Anderson project manager Greg Schendel gave an update on school projects around the district.

The bid amount for the Washington and Churchill Elementary Schools roofing and ducting upgrade came in under budget at $3.91 million. Harbor City Masonry out of Duluth bid $21,867. Lake Area Roofing & Construction, Inc. from Chisago City gave a base bid of $3.72 million and an alternate No. 3 $169,562. That would include both elementary schools.

The total contract for both bids is $3.89 million. The total bids without the alternate is $3.74 million and total bids with the alternate is $3.91 million.

Kraus-Anderson does recommend the alternate bid package.

The elementary schools are not the only ones undergoing updates and changes. The high school science lab is getting a makeover. Even the layout is changing, according to Schendel.

The project is slated to start June 1 and is projected to be finished in September. The cost is estimated at $214,821, which is over budget by $14,821.

The high school auditorium will also be updated this summer. Updates include architectural and theatrical lighting for $252,000 and acoustical system for $350,000. The theatrical rigging is original and will be demolitioned and disposed. It will cost $225,000 for the motorized rigging to be delivered and installed. Fixed audience seating will include the seats, low-voltage LED or incandescent aisle lighting replacement at a cost of $137,750 and pit filler/stage extensions will be about $26,500. There will also be smaller projects such as the stage floor, sound booth and paint, carpet and finishing touches. They are still undecided on what will happen to the second-floor sound booth that is currently being used as storage.

One idea is extra seating. The total base bid budget is $1.18 million, with the final amount including all work, contingencies and fees is $1.33 million.

High school principal position posted

Long time Cloquet resident, Clarence Badger, thanked Scarbrough for his many years of service as superintendent. Scarbrough is retiring at the end of the school year.

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