On June 17, Spring Grove District Superintendent Rachel Udstuen told the ISD #297 Board of Directors that work on the new gym floor is right on track.

"Very exciting things are happening," she said. "Bleachers were getting moved out today, and things were coming off the wall."

The mastic adhesive under the old flooring's cork and tar layers was found to include "Chrysotile," a substance containing asbestos. Ducts will be cleaned after all of that material has been removed.

"The asbestos abatement is scheduled for Monday, July 1," Udstuen reported. That process may even begin a few days sooner if the floor removal goes quickly, she added.

"We've had people asking, can I get a piece of that floor?"

"Some of the old flooring may splinter, but the good news is, anything that can be salvaged will be set aside," Udstuen said. The Athletic Booster Club may be able to sell some of that material as a fundraiser, she noted.

On a related note, directors reviewed three painting bids for the gym walls and ceiling, and approved the lowest. T-N-T Painting offered to do the job for $8,950, which was over $1,500 less than the nearest competitor. The board asked for proof of insurance as the only condition for acceptance.

Some painting could occur as early as this week.

If the abatement process goes according to plan, "We're definitely hoping that by July 12 the floor is starting to be installed," Udstuen said. "We know that on Aug. 12, they need to be in here for volleyball."

Proposed budget approved

The board approved a proposed budget for the 2013-14 school year. At $4,026,420, General Fund spending was $65,996 higher than revenue, and the "Trust and Agency" line items (including scholarships) were $4,000 over income.

"Food Service" and "Community Service" funds were $9,325 and $3,226 higher on the revenue side of the equation, respectively. That leaves the current spending total $57,445 higher in expenditures.

District Accountant Tanya Elton said that low-interest rates have hurt income levels under the trust line. General Fund spending includes a wide variety of work being performed, including projects related to the new gym floor.

The budget projection is higher than the updated or "revised" 2012-13 figures. That document now lists expenditures of $3,869,295.

Health and Safety budgets for the next three school years were also approved. Those include $4,700 each year for physical hazards, $600 for other hazardous materials, $15,200 for Environmental Health and Safety Management and $5,400 for fire safety.

Udstuen reported that funding from the State of Minnesota has been raised for the next biennium. "It's a good year for education," she said.

"With $485 million new dollars that's a significant increase- a percent and a half in year one and another percent and a half in year two. In year two, kindergarten is going to be funded at the same level as first through sixth grades."

For the Spring Grove District that translates to additional revenue in 2013-14 of $38,916 (1.5% increase) and additional revenue in 2014-15 of $124,211 (1.5% increase plus all-day everyday kindergarten).

School boards will also now have the authority to approve up to $300 of a referendum.

Kindergarten policy discussed

Updated policies for early admission into kindergarten will be required from districts, Udstuen said.

"That's especially significant for us because we've had a request to consider early admission to kindergarten. Our policy says that kindergarteners are age five by September first. Your new early admission policy could be a continuation of that.

"From where we're sitting, I don't know of a lot of districts that have an early admission (policy). It's more likely that you might have acceleration once kids are in school."

The Policy Committee will meet with Udstuen to take up the issue.

Udstuen also reported that the Spring Grove Education Association has voted to return the 2 percent set aside for staff development in the 2013-14 school year. The amount would approximately be $38,000.

New measurements in place

Minnesota Department of Education assessments will soon be released, Udstuen said.

"We cannot compare the reading scores when they are released this summer to last year's reading scores. Some media outlets are going to do that... but it was never designed to be able to compare, so it's common that people would make that leap, but it's a brand-new test.

"Last year's test and this year's test are measuring two different standards of expectations, so this year's test scores should be considered to be a new starting point."

A similar situation existed in 2011 when math assessments underwent changes, she added.

"There are different tests and different ways of administering the tests."

High achievers program considered

Udstuen said that funding from the Houston County Collaborative (HCC) may be available for a pilot program for a group of at-risk students.

"We've got different resources that are addressing these needs, and we did not want to use that at-risk money to do a one-time shot in the arm and have it be gone.

"Since we haven't done anything with it, it's been accumulating. We're at $24,000 (in funds accumulated), and this year they're anticipating we'll have at least another $12,000."

Udstuen said that the "high achieving" student population qualifies as an at-risk group. A program for "gifted and talented" pupils may be a way to utilize HCC funding to make a difference.

"I ran it by them (HCC), and they said, 'Yes,'" she reported.

Citing a recent Hormel Foundation symposium that several staff attended on gifted and talented programs in Austin, Udstuen said that one way to make sure that students achieve their potential is to set up a "school within a school" or "one room schoolhouse" pilot with a full-time position.

"There are a lot of logistical challenges," she admitted, but one teacher could run the program for the whole school with students from various grades spending a portion of their day working on an "accelerated curriculum."

Udstuen offered to continue investigating the idea and bring a recommendation to a later meeting.

Grant funding may also be available to help fund the pilot, she added.

Contracts offered, leave approved

The board approved two additional days to school counselor Scott Solberg's yearly contract to allow for more summer work.

Substitute teacher Jennifer Wedmann also was granted a contract for 125 days per year to teach a Family and Consumer Science class, which is held in cooperation with the Caledonia School District.

All non-certified (non-12 month) employees were placed on leave for PERA purposes.

Other news from the board

A bid from Swede Bro Resurfacing to shot-blast, diamond-grind to profile and fill cracks and seems, divots and defects and apply a three-coat system to lower level floors and stairways was approved. The work will cost $11,498.

Low-bidder Hoskins Electric was given a variety of electrical upgrades to perform over the summer months, including the installation of sensors in bathrooms and hallways, added circuits in several areas and security lighting. Their bid was $5,190.

Quotes to insulate the mechanic's room roof were tabled for comparison. Directors asked for more information on R-values so that an "apples-to-apples" comparison could be made between bidders.

Incoming seniors Nicole Ellingson and Jayme Lenning will serve as (non-voting) student representatives on the board during the 2013-14 school year.

The next meeting of the board was set for Monday, July 15, at 7 p.m.