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R-P superintendent reports on flood

Fri, Aug 31st, 2007
Posted in Education

RUSHFORD - "I've said before that Rushford is southeastern Minnesota's best kept secret," said Superintendent Chuck Ehler to the school board at their regular monthly meeting. "Um...it's not a secret anymore," Ehler continued, in one of the few light-hearted moments during the meeting last Monday, August 27.

Ehler gave a measured and organized report on flood activities to begin the meeting. Included in that list were the following:

• Only the lower level of the school received flood damage; several rooms had 4-5 inches of sludge, which was removed as quickly as possible by volunteers and a professional clean-up company from St. Paul.

• The floor of the music room had to be removed.

• A second professional cleaning company, recommended by the state department of education, is currently cleaning and disinfecting all areas and removing ceiling tiles. The company is MAVO System of Rochester and specializes in this type of clean up and sanitation.

• Ehler will register the school with FEMA to receive federal disaster relief.

• Ehler is seeking a portable classroom for the pre-school which was housed on the lower level.

• The state department will arrange for R-P to offer free meals to flood-affected families; also, the state has said that if R-P ends up losing some students because of the flooding, they will not lose state aid (for this year).

• Water fountains have already been covered to keep students from drinking the city water until it is deemed safe. Students will drink bottled water and have plenty of hand sanitizers available.

• Many local groups, businesses, and school teams have already made generous donations to R-P, including $558 from the Pine Island football team, $200 from Caledonia volleyball team, football practice dummies from WSU, and football practice jerseys and vests from Steichen sports.

• R-P's Partners in Education group has been working to sort all of the donated school supplies that have come in. At a town meeting last week, Ehler advised district parents not to purchase school supplies if they hadn't already: enough have been donated to cover elementary and middle school students.

• Guidance counselors and behavioral specialists will be on hand for the Open House August 30 to help children who've been affected by the flood. The school will continue to give attention to this issue and be proactive in offering help even after school starts.

• In his report, Ehler stated emphatically that the "school environment will be safe and healthy for the start of school. Efforts have been made to insure the environmental welfare of all who work in our building."

Eric Thompson questioned why Ehler had not considered postponing the start of school for a week, as Thompson had heard that sentiment expressed in the community.

"I understand that," Ehler replied, but he is committed to starting school on time because "it's important to give the kids a sense of normalcy."

Both Greg Smith and John Nitecki reported having heard the opposite sentiment that Thompson heard: that it would be good for the kids as well as the community if school could start on time.

In other business, the board approved the hiring of Jason Dahl for fifth grade. Dahl, who will replace Ron Calvert who recently retired, is a Rushford native who has taught both 5th and 6th grade for ten years in Chetek, Wisconsin.

Ehler informed the board that R-P will be going "green" this year as they've become a recycling test site for Waste Management. The company will allow the district to "mingle" recyclables, making the process simple. Ehler feels that recycling will ultimately bring significant savings to the district in garbage pick-up fees.

Ehler suggested the board table a bid from Winona Nursery and R & R Construction to landscape the front of the building. Ehler made the recommendation "in light of recent conditions," which also drew a bit of welcome laughter from the somber group.

High school principal Brad Johnson was present to discuss, among other things, changes in lunch hour procedures for high school students. New elementary principal Joel Hovland was also present.

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