Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, July 16, 2001

Consolidation, joint-use facility, and more part of LP school meeting

By Patrice Waldron

The media center at Lester Prairie School was practically standing room only as parents gathered at last Monday's Lester Prairie School Board meeting.

The board is facing some tough choices as it looks realistically at its financial numbers.

Consolidation is the question on the minds of many as the board makes comparisons to what the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted and the Glencoe-Silver Lake school districts have to offer.

"There are many ideas out there, but nothing is set in stone, one way or another," said Chairman Gene Starke.

"HLWW is looking at building real quick," said Supt. James Redfield.

"They're looking at the building; we'd be wise to look at the steps in between," Redfield cautioned.

Chris Schultz of Lester Prairie asked the board when the tax impact questions would be available.

Redfield replied that the numbers are not available at this time. Schultz then replied that the web site for the League of Minnesota Cities contains tax information.

Other information requested was for the numbers associated with the proposed joint-use facility. Schultz asked about a time frame for the when the information would be ready.

"We don't know, and can't answer that tonight," said Redfield.

School options

A discussion took place when an audience member asked for clarification of the options the school was facing

One option is to consolidate with Glencoe-Silver Lake. The second option is to pair with Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted.

The third choice the school has is to remain independent.

The time frame for the decision is still open at this point.

Nothing will be decided until after the the meeting with GSL, which is set for Tuesday, July 24.

HLWW, with whom the school boards had a joint meeting, simply wanted to know if a committee could be formed.

The first meeting with GSL June 14 was a cooperative meeting.

The next meeting will be between the full boards of Lester Prairie and GSL Tuesday, July 24 at the Panther Field House, located next to GSL High School in Glencoe.

The Lester Prairie board will meet at 6 p.m. in the LPHS media center; then travel to Glencoe for the joint meeting at 7:30 p.m.

Consolidation

Before consolidation takes place, and before any decisions can be made, the long term impact, placement of grades, and projected time frame for consolidation will all be addressed, said Redfield.

The public will be informed of the desire to consolidate, or whatever choice is, and the decision will be made by the residents through a referendum, it was noted.

Personnel

When personnel issues were addressed, the board voted 5-0 to reinstate one band/choir position, and one elementary teaching position. Barry Kyllo was absent for the vote due to a work-related call.

Hoernemann reported on the results of Redfield's evaluation. An evaluation form was randomly sent to 12 staff members. Their identities remained unknown.

"The evaluation came out about down the middle," said Hoernemann.

"The school board raised its evaluation above where it was last time," he concluded.

Starke announced that two paraprofessionals would be eliminated for the 2001-02 school year. The two positions would be eliminated based on seniority, and the positions of the paraprofessionals will be assigned at a different time.

"I understand the position of the paraprofessionals, and maybe some of the parents. There'll be hard feelings any which way it happens. It's like a business," said Starke.

The staff cutbacks passed with a vote of 4-1. Board member Fred Blaser voted against cutting the paraprofessionals.

Joint-use facility

When talk moved to a joint-use facility between the school and city, Redfield said he will be the one writing the application for grant funding.

When it comes time to make decisions, it is likely that there will be city council representatives, school board members, and citizens of Lester Prairie. A variety of people, serving the city in different capacities is desired in order to get a well-rounded approach to the project.

Schultz reported that the matter of a joint-use facility was discussed at length at the city park board meeting.

The biggest questions are the prospective location, operating budget, and how to fund it.

Items to be considered part of the facility are: meeting room, library, pool, a state-of-the art media center, office space for the police department, and city offices.

The state will put funds toward joint-use facilities, because, for example, in having the police department located there, someone is on-site most of the time, and the facility would be open all year round, instead of closing for the summer months.

Questions to be answered include who would maintain the facility, either the city or the school, what the operating costs would be, and where the money would come from.

There have been questions raised about opportunities available to students at a small school.

"How would this (facility) increase opportunities for students?" asked resident Jenni Sebora.

"The facility could be used for after school programs, gym space, arts, play practice, and a pool for exercise," said Redfield.

"I would like to see the fine arts programs expanded," said Blaser.

"The worst thing would can do is rush into something. We don't want to make the wrong decision. There is no going back," said Blaser.

"If there's increased space, how would it (the facility) increase the curriculum, more programs, and increase technology?" asked Sebora.

"It would increase space for students, get kids out of the hall ways," said board member Nancy Krull.

Elementary principal

The position of elementary principal has been split with a part-time special education position at the high school level.

Some of the duties of the elementary school principal will be taken care of by Redfield.


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