Even though the new gym floor was not yet being fit into place when the ISD #297 school board met on July 15, preparations for the last step in the process were just about complete.

Superintendent Rachel Udstuen reported that the removal of the old flooring, abatement of underlying asbestos-containing mastic, and painting was done. Duct cleaning professionals were finishing their work and packing up even as she spoke.

The final piece of the puzzle was the installation of a new shock-absorbent floor, set to begin within a day or two.

"Things are going well," Udstuen said, "We're on schedule." The current ready-to-use date for the gym is no later than Aug. 12.

Final preparations approved

The board approved a long list of measures in preparation for the 2013-14 school year.

With an additional section of seventh grade necessary this year to meet enrollment, four increases to teacher contracts were approved.

Nolie Kapplinger will go from .833 FTE to full time (1.0 FTE). Chris Strinmoen will increase from .917 to 1.0 FTE, as will Karen Tisthammer. Lindsay Mackie will go from .167 FTE to .50 FTE.

The board accepted Strinmoen's resignation as junior high football coach. He will continue to coach other sports, but wanted to take the fall off from coaching, Udstuen reported.

Strinmoen has offered to help his replacement with the transition process.

Gifted-and-talented teacher hired

Jacquelyn Parker was hired as full-time gifted-and-talented teacher. Udstuen said that $24,000 in funding for the position has been made available from the Houston County Collaborative with additional funds from the same source possible.

On a related note, she said a work group for the gifted-and-talented area of instruction is being set up. Board chair Aaron Solum offered to participate on that team, which will eventually include both parents and students.

Early kindergarten planning

Udstuen reported that even as the district develops a policy for early admission to kindergarten, "We have a request for a student to be screened."

She said the child will be given a standardized test administered by the school psychologist to see if he or she is ready to begin school. Currently, the district requires kindergarteners to be at least 5 years old by Sept. 1.

Other decisions for school year

A bread products bid process arranged through the Minnesota Service Cooperatives, of which Southeast Service Cooperative is a member, was accepted. Bimbo Bakeries (formerly Sara Lee/Earthgrains) won the bid and will serve as vendor for 62 schools.

Two milk bids were reviewed. They were from Dean Foods of Woodbury and Kemps of Rochester. Directors chose to take Udstuen's recommendation and stay with Dean Foods.

She said the bid was cheaper when cost comparisons were worked through, even though the bids were not exactly "apples to apples" in nature.

Dean Foods has provided milk to the district for the last two school years.

A 10-cent increase to school lunch prices was approved. Breakfast charges will remain the same.

Udstuen said, "Because our school lunch price is less than the current federal reimbursement rate, the district is required to either gradually increase prices or provide additional non-federal support for its lunches."

The board approved bonding at the same level as last year (Clerk/treasurer $50,000, Financial Secretary $50,000 and individual staff $12,500).

Membership contracts with Minnesota School Board Association, the Southeast Service Cooperative, Hiawatha Valley Education District, Region V Finance, and the Minnesota State High School League were approved.

No changes were made to participation fees for athletics and other extra-curricular activities, which will remain at 2012-13 levels. Athletic admission prices will also be the same as last year.

Board salaries were approved at last year's rates as well ($1,000/year for board chair, $700/year for board members, $300/negotiating cycle for each negotiator, and $25 for out-of-district meetings up to 4 hours, $50 for 4-6 hours, and $100 for over 8 hours.)

Optional student accident insurance with Student Assurance Service of Stillwater was once again approved.

Out-of-state tuition rates were maintained at 2012-13 levels ($1,500 for grades K-6, $2000 for 7-12).

The official bank depository will again be Merchants Bank of Spring Grove. Depositories for investments include that institution, as well as Eitzen State Bank, Bank of the West in Caledonia and Mabel, New Albin State Bank, and the MSBA Liquid Asset Fund.

A $24,294 quote from North Central Insulation of Eau Claire, Wis., won approval as the lower of two bids to install a two-inch layer of insulating/roofing material to the rooftop of the Power Mechanics Building.

The district has $21,000 worth of insurance coverage from hail damage to the building, which can be applied to the project.

The official newspaper for 2013-14 will be the Spring Grove Herald.

Next regular meeting announced

The next regular meeting of the school board will be Monday, Aug. 19, at 7 p.m. in the Media Center.