By Ben Bisbach
The Spring Grove School Board held its first meeting of the new year on Monday, January 9. The first item of business was the swearing in of new member Angie Solie in special session. Superintendent Rachel Udstuen administered the oath of office. Returning board member Aaron Solum opened up nominations for board chair and was promptly nominated for the position himself. Stephanie Jaster was nominated for vice chair, Kelly Rohland for clerk, and Tanya Elton for treasurer. All were elected on unanimous votes. The special session was adjourned, and the regular meeting was called into session at 7:10 p.m.
Luke Greden joined the board via zoom to deliver the 2021-22 financial audit. Greden presented a “clean” audit, and went on to detail its various findings. The general fund has just under $600,000, which is in line with expectations. The operating capital budget is sitting at $240,000. Long term facilities maintenance showed a small deficit in 2022 due to a large number of projects being completed in the past year; however the big picture trajectory is normal. The food service and community service funds showed increases in both expenses and revenue.
Overall, the district receives 74% of its funds from state sources, 12.4% from local property taxes, 5.4% from federal sources, and the rest from other sources. Over the past five years, revenue and expenses have been fairly steady, and Greden commended the district for having a high proportion of its expenditures go towards items that directly benefit student learning.
Principal Luke Kjelland gave the principal’s report. A motivational speaker is scheduled to give a presentation called “Choosing Hope” for 6-12th graders on January 26. Principal Kjelland observed that the timing will be ideal, with late January being a period when the winter blues have settled in for many.
Staying on the topic of the challenges of winter, conversation moved to the issue of rescheduling games and other events canceled due to December’s many weather events. Administrators are struggling to find times that work with the other teams in question, especially in light of pre-existing shortages of officials. They are in discussions with local churches about potentially having a few games rescheduled to a Wednesday, as a last resort. Superintendent Udstuen emphasized this would be for a few games at most. Board members expressed their desire to keep parents involved in the decision process.
Bids for the renovation of the science classroom were discussed. Four bids were received. The low bid was from Fowler and Hammer of La Crosse. Angie Solie raised the question of how to know if the lowest bid would necessarily be of adequate quality. Superintendent Udstuen described that Fowler and Hammer are well known for working with many districts in the area, and she has had years of positive experiences with the company. The board moved to accept the bid from Fowler and Hammer.
Discussion then turned to the water damage the school recently suffered in December. When the fire occurred downtown, much of the town lost power for a period of time. An intrusion of cold air caused ice to form on a pipe, which then thawed when temperatures warmed. It was determined that this ice eventually fell off and struck a sprinkler head, causing it to discharge.
Water from the sprinkler then began to soak teacher Shelly Anderson’s room. Because the room is on the top floor, the water was able to percolate down and cause damage through a cross section of the building. Udstuen described arriving at the scene and realizing the volume of water moving through the school – a call was put out on Facebook and the community rallied, with “50 people showing up” with wet vacs, mops, lots of muscle, and a desire to help.
The district is in discussions with their insurer. The board was pleased to learn there was no asbestos found in the damaged area, so there will be no additional costs associated with removing the toxic substance. Replacement of the carpet should begin within a few weeks. The board moved to work with Mr. Carpet for installation, with the cost covered by insurance.
There are a few outstanding issues associated with the damage that they are still working through. Some wood floors have been warped and may need to be replaced. Nonetheless, Superintendent Udstuen expressed her sense of perspective on the situation, compared to the tragedy which occurred in the city’s downtown.
The final topic was to set the time of the next meeting – it will be on February 23 at 7:30 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.