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Hancock School Board readies for new year School construction project remains on schedule

By Sue Dieter

Construction is nearly done at the Hancock Public School and members of the school board are likewise gearing up for the 2013-2014 school year.

On Monday, board members heard that the school will be ready for students on the first day of classes, which is Sept. 3.  

Principal Tim Pahl said  although there are a number of items that still need to be completed, he can’t complain about the progress of the project so far.  He reported that the sheetrocking, ceiling gridwork and painting is complete.  Additionally, all of the new cabinets are in the 1960s addition and most of the cabinets have been installed in the high school and new addition.  Because the concrete has not dried to acceptable levels in four of the classrooms and the hallways, the vinyl tile has not been installed.  However, the tile was installed in the computer and business labs.  

Pahl said Wednesday would be a crucial day, as that is when the elevator inspection is scheduled.

Superintendent Jerry Martinson shared an updated project budget with the board, which showed the contingency fund   at $190,299.   Martinson said he felt confident that the project would stay within the budget.   

Pahl reported that enrollment is expected to be up by at least 25 over last year.  He also noted that the number of open enrollment requests was up this year, to 14.   Pahl expects that may increase, as there may be additional students who have yet to turn in their paperwork.  In his report to the board, Pahl reported that total enrollment to date was at 305, which includes 186 in kindergarten through sixth grade and 119 high school students.  

As part of the discussion on enrollment, Pahl  requested that the board hire a full-time teacher who would work halftime with both the first and fifth grades.  He noted that there are currently 26 students in first grade and he anticipated that would increase.  There are 28 fifth grade students and he noted that there are some higher needs among that class.

Board member Joel Flaten questioned the need for an additional teacher for the first grade.   He asked if they could try to meet the students’ needs with an additional paraeducator.  

Pahl replied that he considers first grade to be crucial, saying that there comes a point where the teacher’s focus is more on management of the class than on education.  

Flaten replied that every teacher would like to have a class of 14 students, but as a board member, he had to look at the financial impact.  He noted that a fulltime teacher would cost the district $36,000 plus benefits.  Flaten said he was fearful of setting a precedent.  He suggested that the district could hire a half-time fifth grade teacher and offer that person a half-time para position for the first grade.  There was no discussion on salary for the position.

Martinson said that they run the risk of not giving the first graders a real quality educational experience.  He also noted that the emphasis is on making sure students are reading at grade level by third grade and first grade is an important part of reaching that goal.  

Flaten suggested that the board could review the situation after school begins and if necessary, promote the half-time para to a teaching position.

The board approved a half-time teacher, half-time paraeducation position on a unanimous voice vote.  

In other action, board members:

• approved a change in the teacher inservice days.  Teachers will work on Aug. 21, 26, 27 and 28 but will not have a workday on May 27.  

• approved a Head Bus Driver job description.

• approved a revised adult lunch price of $3.35, which is the minimum price set by the Minnesota Department of Education.

• accepted Adam Bjerkevedt’s resignation as FFA Advisor and approved Jill Steiner and Andrew Steiner as co-advisers.

• approved a surplus property list consisting of items removed from the school during construction.