The Cloquet School District will receive a $1.86 million general obligation capital facilities bond, officials told the school board at its Monday, Jan. 25 meeting.

The bond has an interest rate of 0.68%, which, according to municipal advisor Matthew Hammer, is lower than what was expected.

“We’re really happy with the results,” Hammer said, explaining that the lower interest rate was possible because of historic lows with interest rates and a shorter bond term of 10 years.

The bond sale comes from Northland Securities in Minneapolis and will be paid out of existing school revenue. It will not result in any additional tax burden for residents, according to superintendent Michael Cary.

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The bond funds will be available for district use starting Feb. 18.

Cary explained that the funds are set to be used for renovations to the career and technical education space in the district.

"We have an older wood shop, metals shop, computer lab ... and another room which used to be for a public access TV station that’s no longer operational," he elaborated. "We are renovating that space to create a new art space, modern wood shop and metal shop with a fabrication lab and updated computer lab."

Vaccine update

The district will receive 42 additional COVID-19 vaccine doses to be distributed to staff in the upcoming week.

School officials were instructed to select the next 42 staff members to receive the vaccine, with 13 having received it last week.

The district employs approximately 400 people, according to Cary, who said school officials plan to consult medical professionals at Community Memorial Hospital before determining who is next in line for the vaccine.

With students returning to classrooms this week, officials are establishing a vaccine priority list, as well as implementing a two week optional COVID-19 testing schedule for staff, Cary said.

Cary said that while staff members are currently required to receive their vaccinations in the city of Mountain Iron, he is hoping a local site will be available soon. He received a notice Monday from Carlton County's Health and Human Services Department regarding the expansion of county staff vaccination sites.

Learning goals

In addition to discussing finances and the pandemic, the school board also addressed learning plans and goals for its schools.

Cary discussed the alignment of the goals in Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s new “Due North Education Plan” compared to those in the district’s plan and emphasized the importance of eliminating biases in education.

In 2019, the district implemented a three-year achievement and integration plan aimed to improve the education of American Indian students.

Year one preliminary data showed the district on track with four of the five goals, said American Indian education director Teresa Angell.

The one goal where the district has fallen short is in enrolling high school students in the Anishinaabeg of Lake Superior college course at Fond du lac Tribal and Community College. Angell attributed the lack of progress on this goal to the COVID-19 pandemic and distance learning.

She said officials hope to engage more students in the class this summer.

The meeting ended with board chair Ted Lammi acknowledging National Paraprofessional Week, which began Monday.

“I really think it’s important to recognize the service they’ve provided the district and community over this last year,” Cary said.