Playground Equipment Approved; Levy Drops for Construction

Debbie Hemmer

    The Milbank School District’s Board of Education received the welcome news that the district’s valuation was higher than anticipated and will reduce the tax burden of the bond issue for the new elementary school. The information was presented at the regular board meeting Monday, October 14, at the board room in the high school.
    The district’s total valuation is $945,036,333 which is 2.7 percent higher than initial projections. The levy for the bond issue will be $1.194 per thousand rather than $1.30 per thousand as projected. The capital outlay levy will be $1.80 per thousand which will keep the total levy for the two funds under three mills, a goal the district set prior to the construction of the new school. ‘This is super news for everybody,” said Nancy Meyer, district business manager.
    Justin Downes, superintendent, gave an update on the elementary school construction, and indicated the project was ahead of schedule. “Even with all the rain,” he said. It was noted that the majority of the structure that is visible has been roofed, and that floors may be poured by November 4.
    Hasslen Construction Co. has asked the board for direction on the replacement of an electrical feeder line that was clipped at the beginning of the project. Several options were open to the board.
    Two cost proposals from Engelstad Electric of Watertown were presented. The cost proposal to feed the line through the ceiling in the new building is $58,106, and the proposal to dig the line in is $81,201. Both would add 29 days to the contract, extending the completion date past the October 6, 2020, deadline. The board also has the option to call for bids on the project.
    Board members decided to accept the $58,106 bid without the 29-day extension. If Engelstad is not agreeable to the condition, then bids will be let for the installation of the feeder line.
    Dave Graf, Koch School principal, gave a presentation on the new playground equipment being considered for the new elementary site. He indicated that initially three companies had been contacted, but Cunningham Recreation has been chosen. They sponsor a grant which provides matching funds. Graf has been working with a company representative from Iowa.
    “Playground equipment is really expensive, and money doesn’t go a long way,” said Graf. “Cunningham gives us the most bang for our buck.” The board had originally budgeted $150,000 this year for playground equipment, and an additional $100,000 next year.
    The equipment, surface material, shipping and installation will be $190,141. The matching grant through Gametime is $58,382.66. In order to qualify for the grant, the cost of the system had to exceed $90,000 and payment in full must accompany the order.
    “Without the grant the cost would be more than $250,000,” revealed Graf. “We are excited about the development of this project. The matching funds allow us to acquire additional equipment and stretch our budgeted dollars a little farther.”
    The plan calls for a 2-5 age play structure, a 5-12 unit and a climbing wall. The equipment also includes 12 swings – seven belt swings, four tire swings and one ADA swing for children with disabilities.
    Rubber mulch will be used to surface the playground area. “Wood mulch is an option, but it rots and at some point would have to be removed and replaced,” noted Graf.
    The board approved the purchase of the equipment which will be shipped to the district in crates. The district will need to store the crates until the equipment can be installed at a later date.

    During the school spotlight portion of the meeting, Downes demonstrated the new equipment the district has acquired to improve communication with non-English speaking students. The district received a generous donation from an anonymous source which allowed for the purchase of 16 refurbished mini iPads and 10 headsets.
    The teacher speaks into the headset which then uses an app on the iPad to translate the teacher’s instructions into Spanish or other languages for the students. “Seven and eight year olds pick up the language quicker, so this technology is best for students at the middle and high school level,” said Downes. “It is not a cure-all, but it has been helpful in the classroom.”
    Kris Evje, middle school principal, presented changes to the district’s mentorship program which matches veteran teachers with those that are new to the district. A handbook has been developed with guidelines outlined. “This is not a new program, but it had no structure or format in the past,” said Evje. “We just had to trust that the work was being done. We have no reason to believe it wasn’t, but this gives guidance for the program.”
    In action items, the board approved the resignation of Kate Ternus, a special education paraprofessional at the middle school. In her resignation letter she indicated that she has chosen to stay at home after the birth of her son. Her last day will be Friday, November 1.
    The board also approved the hiring of Jessica Hanson, elementary art facilitator; Kaylee Pinkert, elementary computers facilitator, and Kay Grothe, OST employee. The individuals had previously been hired, but official action had not been taken according to Downes.
    The board approved out-of-state travel for students to the national FFA convention in Indianapolis, IN, and the Global Youth Institute in Des Moines, IA. Both events are in October.
    Financial state aid is based on enrollment numbers as of the last Friday in September, and Downes reported that Milbank’s enrollment was 999 that day. An additional 19 students are enrolled in pre-kindergarten.
    The next board meeting was set for Monday, November 11, at 6 p.m.
– Debbie Hemmer